Gospel Proclamations and Responses in the Apostolic Church

Table of Contents


Part 1- Evidence

1. Introduction
2. Conversions in Acts Only

3. Conversions in Acts and Epistles
4. Proclamation and Conversions Discussed in Epistles Only

5. The Gospel in the Gospels

6. Proclamation and Response in the Gospels

Part 2- Summary

7. Disciples, Followers and Believers
8. The Message

9. The Response

10. The Length of the Conversion Process

11. The Age of Converts

12. Evangelism in the Early Church

13. Proclamation and Response Today: Foundational Concepts

14. A Scriptural Paradigm for Gospel Proclamation

Appendices

Appendix A: Hippolytus on New Converts
Appendix B: Uses of the Phrase "Preach the Gospel"



1. Introduction

There are many different thoughts on the topic of Christian conversion. In the most general sense, one might call conversion any change in spiritual orientation. The religious world offers a variety of more precise definitions. For example, some teach that conversion is for the infant children of Christians, others hold that conversion must be the decision of an adult. Some consider faith, repentance or baptism to be the crucial elements. Others might consider sincerity or commitment to be critical. Some may advocate the simple "Four Spiritual Laws" or "sinners prayer" approach.

Some may react to the confusion and settle for the "common denominator" of all of the ideas as the way to resolve the conflicting points of view. Others might simply give up due to the complexity of the issues. Proponents for a particular view might cite all Scriptures that support their view, suppress all that don't support their view, and in so doing both skew and obscure the gospel.

Closely related to the topic of conversion are the topics of method and message. Indeed, these three elements are intertwined: the method and the message of evangelism determine the response. If we are to undertake a meaningful examination of conversion, the proclamation and its circumstances also need to be a part of the study.

One would think that the only way to sort through this whole question of method, message and response is to consult the Scriptures. However, the proponents of all of the various conflicting ideas all cite some form of Scriptural support for their positions and beliefs; they also often dismiss the passages that support positions held by others.

There are two major needs in order to get to the bottom of this question. The first need is an intelligent framework that considers the wide body of Scriptural evidence on this topic according to context and systematically applies passages to this question. The second need is the willingness to honestly challenge one's own beliefs and prejudices in light of that evidence.

Evidence to Consider
The intent of this study is to get to the bottom of this question of proclamation and conversion, so the Scriptural evidence we consider should directly address this topic. One thing is certain at the outset: we need to look at the Scriptural evidence carefully. And if we are going to look at it carefully, that means making sure we take the evidence in context-- understanding what was written according to whom and why it was written.

If we are concerned with the topic of Christian conversion, the single book that most precisely addresses this very topic is the book of Acts. Acts is the only book that contains a narrative description of actual Christian conversion accounts. Acts was probably written by Luke to help defend Paul before Caesar, as one of its most striking characteristics is showing how persecution came from the Jews and not from violation of any secular laws or prosecution by civic authorities. Yet, The topic of conversion is not too distant from Luke's primary purpose: the very reason Paul was before Caesar in the first place was because of the opposition of the Jews to the gospel and the existence of the Christian church. Thus, we will find Acts to be a good and reliable source for defining the gospel and answering our questions of proclamation and conversion.

In some instances, the conversions in Acts are supplemented by a subsequent discussion of conversion in an epistle or two to the same group of people. These cases give us a special insight into the questions at hand. By examining the gospel message and conversion details in Acts and the epistles, we can see exactly what was practiced in the early church.

Acts Defense Accounts
From time to time, Acts discusses events where Christians are defend their beliefs and actions in direct response to specific charges of wrongdoing. As a result, these defense accounts are not always helpful in helping us to understand the topic of proclamation and conversion in the early church, as they were not intended to present the gospel thoroughly but rather to answer or persuade a hostile or critical audience on the particular issue at hand.

The Jerusalem Church
The Jerusalem church holds a special place in the book of Acts, and with good reason. The Jerusalem church is certainly the primary church of the New Testament. Jerusalem is the place where the church begins in Acts 2; it is the place where the apostles remain even when others are scattered in Acts 8; it is the place where the Gentile controversy is resolved in Acts 15, and it is the visit to Jerusalem in Acts 21 that propels Paul on his way to Rome under guard as the book of Acts ends.

Thus, it is important to notice how the Jerusalem church began. Acts contains two rather long conversion accounts at the beginning of the Jerusalem church, with several shorter summary accounts and also several "defense" accounts.

Once the church moved beyond Jerusalem, it moved away from the center of Jewish religious life to the outskirts, from the temple to the synagogue, from the area where all Gentiles were regarded with suspicion (at best) to the place where they could be welcomed into the synagogue as "God-fearers." In due time it moved to the fully Gentile areas, competing with pagan religions and philosophies. In due course, Acts addresses conversion each of these areas.

What About the Gospels?
One might ask, why not examine the gospels concerning this question? After all, isn't that where Jesus' teachings are located? However, we must recognize that Jesus lived and ministered and taught primarily under the old covenant of Moses. While he clearly came to usher in the new covenant, the great volume of his teachings recorded in the gospels don't necessarily apply to the question we have in mind. Acts and the epistles will tell us more about the topic of conversion in the church age than the gospels for the simple reason that Jesus wasn't addressing the question of Christian conversion like Acts and the epistles. We should certainly expect that whatever findings we might discern from Acts and the epistles would be supported by the gospels, but we must recognize that the question of Christian conversion in the church age is something that definitely relates to the period of time after Christ's departure from this earth.

Final Notes
This is a huge document, and it is a huge study. In fact, this material was originally made available on the Barnabas Ministry as a series of smaller, linked articles. The assembly of these into one large document is designed to make the study flow better and be more easy to follow.

Within this study are large sections of biblical text, with comments or observations alongside. Because it is so important to consider Scripture in context, and to draw observations from Scripture, these have been included in this study. The text is from the NASB version, which is a relatively readable "formal equivalent" type of translation. This type of translation lends itself to critical studies such as we are about to undertake.

In gospel sections, the "section" index (from the book A Harmony of the Gospels by Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Grundy) is included as well as the Scripture references. An outline of all of these sections can be seen here. This methodology allows us to pay special attention to the context of the sections in regards to the early ministry of Jesus.

It is my hope that this study helps you get a good feel for this topic from a scriptural point of view.



2. Conversions in Acts Only

Jerusalem, Near the Upper Room (Acts 2:5-41)
This is the first account of preaching and conversion in the book of Acts and in the history of the church, begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit early one Sunday morning, on the day of Pentecost. Among other things, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. This commotion drew people (already in Jerusalem from all parts of the world for the feast of Pentecost) to their location with a question and request for explanation, setting the stage for the proclamation of the gospel.
 

Text 

Observations

AC 2:5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. [6] And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? [9] "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, [11] Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." [12] And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" [13] But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."

The immediate circumstance: the outburst of the apostles speaking in other languages draws a crowd of people from among those visiting Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.

AC 2:14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. [15] "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; [16] but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: [17] `AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says,
  `THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND;
  AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY,
  AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS,
  AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; [18] EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN,
  I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT
  And they shall prophesy. [19] `AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE,
  AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH,
  BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. [20] `THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS,
  AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD,
  BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. [21] `AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'

Peter answers the question about the present event as a fulfillment of the prophesy of Joel.

AC 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- [23] this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. [24] "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 

Peter summarizes the most crucial events in the life of Jesus: accredited by signs and wonders, delivered up by God's foreknowledge, crucified by the Jews and Romans, but raised from the dead.

AC 2:25 "For David says of Him,
  `I WAS ALWAYS BEHOLDING THE LORD IN MY PRESENCE;
  FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, THAT I MAY NOT BE SHAKEN. [26] `THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED;
  MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL ABIDE IN HOPE; [27] BECAUSE THOU WILT NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES,
  NOR ALLOW THY HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. [28] `THOU HAST MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE;
  THOU WILT MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH THY PRESENCE.'

Peter cites the Psalms to illustrate God's foreknowledge of the resurrection of the Messiah.

AC 2:29 "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. [30] "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS UPON HIS THRONE, [31] he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

Peter makes the claim that Jesus is the true heir of David's throne.

AC 2:32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. [33] "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. [34] "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
  `THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
  "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, [35] UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET."'

The apostles are witnesses to Jesus' resurrection, and Jesus is responsible for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which caused all of the commotion in the first place. 

AC 2:36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now, as the Messiah, he is also Lord.

AC 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 

The hearers were receptive to the message and wanted to know what to do about it.

AC 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." [40] And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 

Peter offers the command to repent and be baptized, that their sins would be forgiven and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(note; for the children and for all who are far off-- designed to be comprehensive in scope)
(causal eis-- a true quagmire, v 40 says be saved-- not yet saved!)

AC 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The end result of receiving the word: being baptized and thus added to their number.


Jerusalem, Portico of Solomon (Acts 3:11-4:4)

The scene of this incident is at the portico of Solomon near the temple at 3 in the afternoon. Peter and John were going into the temple at the hour of prayer, and they healed a beggar at the temple gate. Like the multitude of languages in Acts 2, this healing and the subsequent reaction of the healed man drew a large crowd to whom Peter preached.

Text

Observations

AC 3:11 And while he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. [12] But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 

Peter's message begins with him disavowing any personal credit for the healing of the man.

AC 3:13 "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. [14] "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, [15] but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. [16] "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 

Yet, Peter cannot simply attribute the healing to Jesus without summarizing the critical elements of Jesus' life: Jesus was rejected by the Jews and handed over to Pilate for execution, but God raised him from the dead, and Peter and John are witnesses of it. 

AC 3:17 "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. [18] "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 

They acted in ignorance by carrying out all the had been written about the rejection of the Christ. 

AC 3:19 "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; [20] and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 

Without a question as in the previous incident, he tells them to repent and return (to God, presumably) that their sins may be wiped out and times of refreshing may come. 

AC 3:21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. [22] "Moses said, `THE LORD GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED in everything He says to you. [23] `And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' [24] "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 

A final result of this repentance is somewhat enigmatic: repentance will led to the second return of Jesus from the Lord. This second coming will come after the "period of restoration" in accordance with the word of the prophets.  In addition, the prophets have testified that those who do not heed the "prophet like Moses" will be destroyed from among the people.

AC 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, `AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' [26] "For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways."

In conclusion, he says that as sons of Abraham they have the first opportunity to receive God's blessing by having Jesus turn them from their wicked ways. 
(interesting description of the Jews-- what exactly was meant by "wicked ways?")
(Also, in saying "First" their appears to be a foreshadowing of future Gentile ministry)

AC 4:1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them, [2] being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. [3] And they laid hands on them, and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 

This sermon appears to end rather abruptly with the temple guard arresting Peter and John as it was already evening.  This event seems to have taken several hours, since it commenced at about 3 in the afternoon). 
 

 

AC 4:4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Yet Luke records that many who heard the message believed and the number of men increased to 5000.

Note: though they "believed," it doesn't say they repented-- even though that's what Peter told them to do, 3:19. From this we might infer that Luke's summaries aren't always intended to be comprehensive theological statements.


Summary Accounts (Acts 2:47, 5:12-16, 5:17-20, 5:42, 6:7)
From time to time in the early parts of the book of Acts, Luke makes summary statements about the continuing numeric growth of the Jerusalem church. Sometimes these comments provide additional insight into the proclamation message and conversion process.  

Text

Observations

AC 2:47 And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The key idea here is that God is the one who adds to their number those are being saved.

AC 5:12 And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. [13] But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. [14] And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; [15] to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. [16] And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed.

Early Christians are now known as "believers in the Lord," and are being added to their number.

AC 5:17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; [18] and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. [19] But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, [20] "Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life."

The proclamation is summarized here as the "whole message of this life."

AC 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

The "they" of 5:42 is the apostles, and here their message is condensed to its essence: that Jesus is the Christ. 

The Greek term translated "preaching" is euanggelizo, the first use of this word in Acts.

AC 6:7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

The increase in the number of disciples is directly linked to the spread of the "word of God." In context, this is a direct result of the apostolic prioritization of Acts 6:4. 

Interestingly, converts are said to be obedient to "the faith." This is the first time "the faith" is used as a term for Christianity.


Samaria (Acts 8:5-24)

The advance of the gospel to Samaria (the area north of Judea but south of Galilee) reflects the first movement beyond Jerusalem (ref. Acts 1:8). The region of Samaria had been visited from time to time by Jesus in his ministry (ref. Lk 9:52, 17:11, Jn 4:4), though Samaritans were generally despised by Jews. Historically it had been a place of idolatry and intermingling with the nations (ref. 2 Kings 17:24ff, Hosea 10:5). But as the Christians were expelled from Judea, Samaria was an adjacent region and the logical next place to go. It's largest city was also known as Samaria.

Text 

Observations

AC 8:5 And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 

[6] And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. [7] For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. [8] And there was much rejoicing in that city.

By "proclaiming Christ" we ought to take this to mean Jesus' identity as the Christ.

Crowds paid attention to what Philip said as his message was accompanied by miraculous signs, in keeping with the model seen in Jerusalem (e.g. Acts 3).

What exactly caused the "much rejoicing" isn't clear-- the healings or preaching.

AC 8:9 Now there was a certain man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city, and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; [10] and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." [11] And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 

Luke tells us important backround information about Simon before relating his story. 

[12] But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 

[13] And even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip; and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

Now Luke finally offers some detail about the conversion of the Samarians. There are basically two elements: 1) preach the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, and 2) hearers believe and are baptized

AC 8:14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, [15] who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. [16] For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [17] Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. [18] Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, [19] saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." [20] But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! [21] "You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. [22] "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. [23] "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." [24] But Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

This section of the account serves to illustrate that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were given at the laying on of the apostle's hands, and only after prayer and in accordance with the will of God. But is also sets up the conflict between Simon and Peter. 

(Simon wanted to purchase this element of the apostolic office and was rebuked by Peter. Yet with all that is said about the deep-seated nature of Simon's sin, there is no mention of inadequate pre-baptismal repentance nor the need for rebaptism. Repentance and prayer on the part of Simon is what is appropriate at this point. )


Road to Gaza (Ethiopian) (Acts 8:26-37)
Details about where Gaza was and the road. Gaza is on the coast, no? Then how is it that the Ethiopian is on his way home from Jerusalem but he is headed to Gaza?

Text 

Observations

AC 8:26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.) [27] And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. [28] And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. [29] And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 

This Ethiopian had come to Jerusalem to worship, and had acquired a scroll of Isaiah and was reading it on the ride back to Ethiopia. (Must have had a driver, too).

Interestingly, first an angel and then the Holy Spirit guide Philip to this man.

AC 8:30 And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" [31] And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. [32] Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
  "HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER;
  AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT,
  SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. [33] "IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY;
  WHO SHALL RELATE HIS GENERATION?
  FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH."

Philip runs up to the chariot and hears him reading Isaiah out loud (possibly for the benefit of those riding with him?). 

Philip inquires about whether he understands what he is reading or not, and the man expresses his need for someone to guide him with understanding it.

 AC 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?" [35] And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 

Philip begins with this very passage and preaches Jesus to the man.

AC 8:36] And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" 

As they approached some water, the man simply states, "what prevents me from being baptized?" (This implies that baptism was part of what Philip had been telling him.)

AC 8:37 [And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."] 

textual addition: reflects early church practice of requiring  a confession.

AC 8:38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. [39] And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. 

Philip and the man go down into the water, and Philip baptizes him. Philip is snatched away, but the man goes on his way in joy.


Damascus (Paul) (Acts 9:19-22, 26:19-20)
Damascus is an ancient city, first appearing in the Bible in Genesis (Genesis 14:15). It is about 130 miles north of Jerusalem (but about 180 miles south of Antioch). Paul was on his way there to persecute Christians when the Lord appeared to him (Acts 9:3). He was led into the city and baptized by a Jewish Christian named Ananias (Acts 9:10ff). Thus there were other Christians there already, though we don't know exactly how or when they were converted. All we hear about is Paul's ministry to the people of Damascus.

Text 

Observations

AC 9:19 Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, [20] and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." [21] And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" [22] But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul visits the synagogues in the first version of a role that will be repeated many times in Acts: The visiting teacher who proclaims Jesus as the Son of God.

The amazement wasn't about the message, but about how the messenger had changed sides. Yet Paul also grew in power in proving that Jesus is the Christ.

 

AC 26:19 "Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, [20] but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. 

Paul relates the story of his Damascus ministry to Agrippa, summarized with the following points: repentance and turning to God, with actions in accordance with repentance.


Caesarea (Cornelius) (Acts 10:1-11:18)
The account of the conversion of Cornelius is the most lengthy conversion account in the New Testament. The length does not result from the details of the proclamation and response but rather because Cornelius was a Gentile-- the first Gentile convert to the gospel. We know that Cornelius was a "God-fearer--" that is, a Gentile who regularly attended synagogue. More than that, he is commended for his godliness, generosity to the Jewish people and his continual prayers to God.

Being the first Gentile convert to Christianity, there is significant detail here in two particular areas-- first, getting Peter to actually go to Cornelius' house and preach to him, and second in dealing with the response of the other church leaders who objected to Peter baptizing a Gentile. These frame the discussion about the actual proclamation and response of the gospel.

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Observations

AC 10:1 Now there was a certain man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, [2] a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually. [3] About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in to him, and said to him, "Cornelius!" [4] And fixing his gaze upon him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. [5] "And now dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; [6] he is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea." [7] And when the angel who was speaking to him had departed, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were in constant attendance upon him, [8] and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

We see Cornelius' godly character as at least something of a factor in God selecting him to hear the gospel. 

AC 10:9 And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. [10] And he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; [11] and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, [12] and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. [13] And a voice came to him, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat!" [14] But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." [15] And again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." [16] And this happened three times; and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.

Peter has a vision that is intended to help him see that the "unclean" Gentiles are no longer to be rejected.

AC 10:17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; [18] and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. [19] And while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. [20] "But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself." [21] And Peter went down to the men and said, "Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?" [22] And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you." [23] And so he invited them in and gave them lodging. And on the next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. [24] And on the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. [25] And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. [26] But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." [27] And as he talked with him, he entered, and found many people assembled. 

Peter still doesn't completely understand the vision but the Spirit tells him to go with the men who are visiting. 

AC 10:28 And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. [29] "That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. And so I ask for what reason you have sent for me." 

[30] And Cornelius said, "Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, [31] and he said, `Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. [32] `Send therefore to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.' [33] "And so I sent to you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord." 

Peter now proclaims this change in policy, with Jews now associating with Gentiles. He then asks Cornelius to explain why they sent for him. 

Cornelius recounts the story if why he and many others have joined him to hear Peter. 

 AC 10:34 And opening his mouth, Peter said:  "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, [35] but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. 

[36] "The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)-- [37] you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. [38] " You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. [39] "And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. [40] "God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, [41] not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 

[42] "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. [43] "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

Peter confirms that lack of Jewish heredity does not negate those who seek God in hear and righteousness. This is the lesson he was to learn form the vision.

Then he proclaims the message of Jesus: beginning with the baptism of John, how Jesus did signs, good works and healings. Peter was a witness of these things, and not these only but also the crucifixion at the hands of the Jews and the resurrection. 

Lastly, Peter proclaims the apostolic commission: the apostles have been sent to proclaim that Jesus is the judge of the living and dead, and that all who believe in him receive the forgiveness of sins.

10:43-- believe--- receives forgiveness. A summary. There is more to conversion than just forgiveness (for example, gift of Holy Spirit, added to church, saved), and there is more to the response than just belief (baptism, repentance). cf. 11:18.---- same thing.

 AC 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. [45] And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. [46] For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, [47] "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" [48] And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Now the Holy Spirit comes upon Peter's hearers, just as those in the upper room in Acts 2. 

Peter simply says concludes by asking a rhetorical question-- who can refuse to baptize these people who have received the Holy Spirit?  Thus, they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 

AC 11:1 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. [2] And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, [3] saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." 

Now Peter returns to Jerusalem, but the word of what happened in Caesarea has preceded him. He is challenged for having eaten with uncircumcised men. 

[4] But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, [5] "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, [6] and when I had fixed my gaze upon it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. [7] "And I also heard a voice saying to me, `Arise, Peter; kill and eat.' [8] "But I said, `By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' [9] "But a voice from heaven answered a second time, `What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' [10] "And this happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. [11] "And behold, at that moment three men appeared before the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. [12] "And the Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. And these six brethren also went with me, and we entered the man's house. [13] "And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, `Send to Joppa, and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; [14] and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' 

Peter recounts the entire story-- his vision in Joppa, Cornelius' vision to send for him, and the Spirit's command to accompany these men to Caesarea. 

One interesting detail is added to this telling of the account-- in 11:14 where Peter will speak words by which Cornelius and his household will be saved. 

Here "household" refers to non-children, as the household is also said to have "feared God" (ref. 10:2). 

AC 11:15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. [16] "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' [17] "If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" [18] And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

Peter mentions how the Spirit came upon these men as he did the apostles at the beginning (that is, Acts 2). 

Peter reckons this outpouring as a result of their faith and God's approval. He then asks, how could he stand in God's way?

Thus, all those to whom Peter was speaking simply submitted to what God had done: Through Peter, God has granted the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.


Antioch (Acts 11:19-26, 15:1-2)
Antioch would one day be the base of missions for the apostle Paul, but there was a day when the gospel first visited this Syrian city. The outreach in Antioch was unique because the message orignally taught only to Jews was now taught to Greeks also by men from Cyprus and Cyrene.

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AC 11:19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. [20] But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. [21] And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 

The proclamation here is referred to simply as "the word" and "the Lord Jesus." This is obviously a generic reference to the same message that was preached elsewhere. 

Concerning the response, it is interesting to observe that the "hand of the Lord was with them and a large number who believed turned to the Lord."

AC 11:22 And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. [23] Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; [24] for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. [25] And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; [26] and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Barnabas observes the evidence of the grace of God in the converts, and encourages them to remain "true to the Lord." Grace is thus evidenced in people being converted, In addition, part of the lifestyle response of new converts was "being true to the Lord"-- suggesting the clear conscience of a life loyal to Jesus. 

Ongoing ministry here also resulted in more people being "brought to the Lord."

Here also in Antioch we see the term "Christian" first applied to the disciples.

AC 15:1 And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." [2] And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 

Later, false teachers appeared and taught tht one must be circumcised to be saved. This position was promptly refuted by Paul and Barnabas and later put down at Jerusalem.  This shows that Christianity completely broke from the Law of Moses and Judaism (though circumcision was not a part of the Law of Moses but was from Abraham;  ref. Jn 7:22-23). 


Defense Accounts in Acts

Peter and John and Sanhedrin 1 (Acts 4:7-22)
In contrast to the previous proclamations of the gospel to the receptive masses, this is the first defense of the gospel in the presence of the Sanhedrin. The apostles had been arrested over the preaching of the resurrection and not necessarily about Jesus (4:2, cf. 23:8, Mt 22:23, recall the Sanhedrin was made up mostly of Sadducees).
 

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AC 4:7 And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" [8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, [9] if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, [10] let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 

As the hearing before the Sanhedrin begins, the apostles are asked "by what power or in what name" had they acted the previous day. 

Peter responds with attributing the healing to the name of Jesus. Yet even in making this connection, Peter cannot resist mentioning that they crucified Jesus and that God raised him from the dead. 

AC 4:11 "He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. [12] "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

Peter identifies Jesus as the "stone the builders rejected" of Psalm 118:22. As the cornerstone, Peter plainly state that there is no other name given for the salvation of man. 

AC 4:13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. [14] And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. [15] But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, [16] saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. [17] "But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name."

The Sanhedrin confers, ultimately rendering a decision prohibiting further proclamation of the name of Jesus. 

AC 4:18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. [19] But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; [20] for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard." 

Interestingly, Peter and John attribute their proclamation to simply "what they have seen and heard."


Peter and John and Sanhedrin 2 (Acts 5:27-32)
This second appearance of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin is a direct result of the apostles' failure to comply with the order from the previous hearing (5:28). This short message made some in the Council want to kill Peter and John, but the wise Gamaliel persuaded them to let them be (5:38-40). Persuaded but still displeased with what happened, the Council had Peter and John flogged and released with another order to be silent (5:40).

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AC 5:27 And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them, [28] saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 

Interestingly, the apostolic proclamation that the Sanhedrin wanted to silence is summarized by them as "bringing this man's blood upon us."

AC 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, "We must obey God rather than men. [30] "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. [31] "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. [32] "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."

Peter, meaning no disrespect to their authority, simply cites a higher authority that must be obeyed (ref. 4:19). 

Peter summarizes the gospel again: You had Jesus put to death on the cross, but God raised him up. Jesus is the one exalted to the right hand of God as Prince and Savior, and grantor of repentance and forgiveness of sins. 

Peter and the rest are simply witnesses of this, as is the Holy Spirit. 


Stephen and Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2-53)
This incident is the first recorded proclamation and defense by a non-apostle, as Stephen addresses the Council that had already heard Peter and John twice previously. He was brought before the Council for a gospel that allegedly spoke against the Moses, the temple and the law (6:12-15).

Once before the Sanhedrin and his accusers, Stephen's sermon summarizes the entire history of Israel from the call of Abram with the key point being the pattern of rejection of Abram, Joseph and Moses by their people. Though each of these had been rejected, God's purpose was especially served by each. Stephen then links these past heroic figures to Jesus and now his witnesses as the latest godly ones to be rejected and persecuted by Israel (7:51ff). Though true, this message led the Council to drive Stephen out of the city and stone him (7:58), commencing a large persecution and scattering of the church in Jerusalem (8:2).
 

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AC 7:2 And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, [3] and said to him, `DEPART FROM YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.' [4] "Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living. [5] "And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS OFFSPRING AFTER HIM. [6] "But God spoke to this effect, that his OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. [7] "`AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,' said God, `AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.' [8] "And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 

The beginning of the Jewish religion is with Abraham. Stephen's point is that God foresaw that Abraham's descendents would worship him in Judea after a time of waiting and hardship. 

AC 7:9 "And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him, [10] and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. [11] "Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it; and our fathers could find no food. [12] "But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. [13] "And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family was disclosed to Pharaoh. [14] "And Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. [15] "And Jacob went down to Egypt and there passed away, he and our fathers. [16] "And from there they were removed to Shechem, and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

True to the prophecy, Abraham's descendents went into Egypt during the famine during the time of Joseph.

AC 7:17 "But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, [18] until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. [19] "It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive. 

Before the promise of God to Abraham could be fulfilled, there were great hardships inflicted upon the people of Israel in Egypt. 

AC 7:22 "And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father's home. [21] "And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh's daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son. "And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. 

[23] "But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. [24] "And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. [25] "And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand. [26] "And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, `Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?' [27] "But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, `WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? [28] `YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?' 

Moses was specially protected by God to lead them out of Egypt, but he was rejected by them.

AC 7:29 "And at this remark MOSES FLED, AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he became the father of two sons. [30] "And after forty years had passed, AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF MOUNT Sinai, IN THE FLAME OF A BURNING THORN BUSH. [31] "And when Moses saw it, he began to marvel at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: [32] `I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.' And Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. [33] "BUT THE LORD SAID TO HIM, `TAKE OFF THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE ON WHICH YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND. [34] `I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT, AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM; COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT.' 

Moses fled Egypt in disgrace, only to be sent back to Egypt by God in the vision of the burning bush.

AC 7:35 "This Moses whom they disowned, saying, `WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?' is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. [36] "This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. [37] "This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, `GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.' [38] "This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. 

Moses, though rejected, was indeed God's true ruler for the people. And Moses said that God would one day raise up a prophet like him.

AC 7:39 "And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, [40] SAYING TO AARON, `MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT--WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.' [41] "And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 

Though Moses was the ruler and performed mighty deeds in the sight of all Israel, the people rejected him again. 

AC 7:42 "But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, `IT WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? [43] `YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP THEM. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON.' 

As Israel rejected Moses, it also rejected God and worshipped false gods. 

AC 7:44 "Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. [45] "And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. 

The first dwelling place for God was the tabernacle in the wilderness, made according to the plan given to Moses.

AC 7:46 "And David found favor in God's sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. [47] "But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. [48] "However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: [49] `HEAVEN IS MY THRONE,
  AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET;
  WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?' says the Lord;
  `OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? [50] `WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?'

David wanted to build a permanent temple, but God gave that task to his son Solomon.

Even in giving that command, it was understood that no building could possibly house God.

AC 7:51 "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. [52] "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; [53] you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."

Stephen concludes the sermon linking the present rejection of Jesus and the apostles with the past rejections of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the prophets. Through the Holy Spirit, God moved through these men to accomplish his will, just as he was moving now in the church. 

Stephen's point is that Israel may have received the law ordained by angels, but their rejection of God's message and messengers proved that they were not keeping that law.


Paul at the Barracks (Acts 22:1-21)
Many years after these other public accounts took place, Paul returned to Jerusalem and participated in taking a vow in the temple. Some Jews had seen a Gentile Christian with Paul near the temple and assumed Paul took him into the temple. Paul was driven from the temple and might have suffered the same fate as Stephen if not for the intervention of a Roman commander. Paul was taken to the Roman military barracks and addressed the hostile crowd from there. Of course, his address to the crowd didn't help; they were as hostile towards him before the address and after the address.

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AC 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you."

AC 22:2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said,

AC 22:3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. [4] "And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, [5] as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. 

Paul did his best to build a bridge to  his hearers, speaking the dialect and mentioning several elements from his past that they would have appreciated-- his heritage, his training and his Council-sponsored hostility towards those of the Way.

AC 22:5b From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. [6] "And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, [7] and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' [8] "And I answered, `Who art Thou, Lord?' And He said to me, `I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.' [9] "And those who were with me beheld the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. [10] "And I said, `What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, `Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.' [11] "But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 

Paul recounts his own conversion, while on the way to Damascus to bring followers of the Way back to Jerusalem for punishment. 

A key element here is that this conversion was instigated by Jesus himself. His conversion was not a result of apostolic preaching or examination of the Scriptures, but due to a miraculous event. 

AC 22:12 "And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, [13] came to me, and standing near said to me, `Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very time I looked up at him. [14] "And he said, `The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. [15] `For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. [16] `And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.' 

Continuing to build the bridge to his hearers, he mentions how Ananias was well-regarded by the Jews as well as a follower of the Way. 

He reiterates the fact that God appointed Paul for his conversion and mission to others. 

Convinced of the truth about Jesus, Ananias commands him to get on with it and be baptized and wash his sins away. 

AC 22:17 "And it came about when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, [18] and I saw Him saying to me, `Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.' [19] "And I said, `Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in Thee. [20] `And when the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying him.' [21] "And He said to me, `Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"

Paul continues to explain how the Lord sent him away from Jerusalem and to the Gentiles. This serves a response to the question about how a Gentile might be with him near the temple. 


Paul and Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-10)
This scene is Paul's defense before the Roman commander and the Sanhedrin. The commander wanted to get to the bottom of the charges the Jews had towards Paul, and convened this meeting. Unlike the closed sessions that Peter, John and Stephen addressed, this is now a Roman legal setting.

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AC 23:1 And Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day." [2] And the high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. [3] Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! And do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" [4] But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" [5] And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'" 

Paul begins his defense by stating that he is living with a good conscience as a Christian. 

Ananias' command to have Paul struck illustrates the hostility of the situation. 

AC 23:6 But perceiving that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" [7] And as he said this, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. [8] For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. [9] And there arose a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, "We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" [10] And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

In a shrewd attempt to reverse the hostility towards himself, Paul aligns himself with the Pharisees on the matter of resurrection. The tactic divided the assembly and resulted in a postponement of the charges towards Paul.


Paul Before Felix (Acts 24:10-21)
This scene is Paul's defense before the Roman governor Felix. He had been taken to Caesarea after the uproar at the temple.  

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AC 24:10 "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, [11] since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. [12] "And neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. [13] "Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. 

Paul begins by addressing the circumstances of the immediate accusation.

AC 24:14 "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; [15] having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. [16] "In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. 

Paul claims his beliefs as a member of the Way are consistent with the Law and the Prophets. He specifically cites the resurrection as a point of interest.

AC 24:17 "Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; [18] in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were certain Jews from Asia-- [19] who ought to have been present before you, and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. 

Paul again addresses what he was doing in the temple.

AC 24:20 "Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, [21] other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, `For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.'"

Again, Paul brings up the resurrection as the key issue.


Paul Before Agrippa (Acts 26:2-29)

This scene is Paul's defense before King Agrippa. This is a hearing prior to him being sent to Rome due to his appeal to Caesar.

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AC 26:2 "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; [3] especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. [4] "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; [5] since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. [6] "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; [7] the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. [8] "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? 

Paul testifies to his strict upbringing as a Pharisee, and mentions that his current beliefs are consistent with his upbringing. He cites belief in the resurrection as the real issue behind his persecution.

AC 26:9 "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. [10] "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. [11] "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 

He recounts his zealous hostility towards Jesus.

AC 26:12 "While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, [13] at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. [14] "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' [15] "And I said, `Who art Thou, Lord?' And the Lord said, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. [16] `But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; [17] delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, [18] to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' 

While engaged in his hostilities, he recounts the story of his conversion-- the vision of Christ and God's commission to send him to the Gentiles.

He mention a few elements of this mission to the Gentiles: 
- turning from light to darkness
- turning from the rule of Satan to God
- receiving the forgiveness of sins and inheritance
- mentions being "sanctified by faith in Christ"

AC 26:19 "Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, [20] but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. [21] "For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. [22] "And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; [23] that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

AC 26:24 And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad." [25] But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. [26] "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. [27] "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do." [28] And Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian." [29] And Paul said, "I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."

Paul states that his subsequent life is a result of obeying what God told him.

He summarizes his message:
- The Christ was to suffer and be raised from the dead
- Proclaim light to the Jews and Gentiles
- People should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to that repentance


Paul Before Jews in Rome (Acts 28:23-28)
This scene is Paul's arrival and appearance before Jews in Rome. It is not a defense in the face of hostility, but Paul is still on the defensive in addressing this sect that is spoken against everywhere.

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AC 28:23 And when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. [24] And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. 

Paul testifies concerning Jesus, trying to persuade them from the Law and Prophets concerning Jesus.

AC 28:[25] And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, [26] saying,
  `GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY,
  "YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
  AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; [27] FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
  AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
  AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES;
  LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
  AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
  AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
  AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM."'


AC 28:28 "Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen." 

Paul mentions that this message of salvation is also sent to Gentiles, and they will listen to it.



3. Conversions in Acts and Epistles

Galatia
Galatia consists of the cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (according to the "southern theory"). These were visited by Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey and were later addressed by the epistle to the Galatians.

Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1). There are instances where Paul's letters to him discuss his early days in the faith and his conversion; there are relavant to our study here.

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AC 14:1 And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. [2] But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren. [3] Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. [4] But the multitude of the city was divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. [5] And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, [6] they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; [7] and there they continued to preach the gospel.

The initial audience consisted of Jews and God-fearers in the synagogue. 

The message isn't discussed at all, the the only comments about the response is that a great multitude believed.

The proclamation of the gospel was accompanied with miraculous signs and bold speech in the face of opposition from disbelieving Jews.

 AC 14:8 And at Lystra there was sitting a certain man, without strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. [9] This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well, [10] said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he leaped up and began to walk. [11] And when the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have become like men and have come down to us." [12] And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. [13] And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. [14] But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out [15] and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. [16] "And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; [17] and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." [18] And even saying these things, they with difficulty restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

AC 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. [20] But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 

Reminiscent of the scene in Acts 3, Paul is apparently preaching in some public setting (though probably not a synagogue)  when he sees a lame man and heals him. 

The first response of the pagan hearers is to suppose that their gods have visited them, and that a sacrifice was in order. This forms the setting for the proclamation that was to follow.

Paul and Barnabas first deny the claim that they were gods. Then they said they preach the gospel in order that men might turn from such "vain things" (i.e. idolatry) to worship and serve the living God. 

They go on to talk about the living God to those who knew only the idols. They cite the language of Psalm 146:6 of God's work of creation, and go on to mention God's tolerance of man's waywardness. Yet this tolerance is accompanied with His witness in the rain, harvest and the blessings of life.

Unfortunately the sermon ends with a mob of Jews from Antioch and Iconium stirring up the crowd against them, stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city. Yet, it is said the disciples (probably converts) stood around him and he arose and returned into the city for the night.

AC 14:21 And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 

In Derbe, all that is said is the generic comments that they "preached the gospel" (euanggelizo, verb ptc.) and "made many diciples" (matheteuo, verb ptc.). 

AC 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." [23] And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 

These verses serve to summarize the Galatian mission. The disciples who had believed in the Lord are urged to continue in the faith, entering the kingdom of God through trials.

GAL 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, [4] who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, [5] to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

Paul summarizes the gospel message in his opening: Jesus gave himself for our sins, to bring salvation, acccording to the will of God.

GAL 1:23 "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy."

Paul preached "the faith" -- a favorite early term for Christianity.

GAL 2:2 And it was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 

Paul presented his gospel to the leaders in Jerusalem

GAL 2:15 "We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; [16] nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. 

Key component of the message: faith in Christ brings justification, not works of the Law.

GAL 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. 

The gospel is again summed up: The Son loved me and gave Himself for me. Paul's response is faith in him and being crucified (perfect tense verb) with him. (cf Rom 6:3-4)

GAL 3:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? [2] This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

[3] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [4] Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? [5] Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? [6] Even so Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. [7] Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. [8] And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU." [9] So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Another reminder: the crucifixion of Christ was a prominent aspect of the message.

But now Paul goes on to discuss the the connection between faith in the gospel of Christ and the promise given to Abraham. This is in direct opposition to the Law of Moses (which the rest of this passage goes on to discuss). His point is that those with faith in Christ are heirs of the promise given to Abraham.
 

GAL 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [27] For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 

"Through faith" in Christ is how they became sons of God.  This faith is connected to the promise given to  Abraham, and also to their baptisms: all who were baptized into Christ clothed themselves with Christ. 

 GAL 4:8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. [9] But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

Paul regards their conversion as "coming to know God" but then reverses himself and says "God came to know them." 

GAL 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

There's that past tense (aorist here) crucifixion of the flesh. Connected with Gal 2:20.

GAL 614 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Paul again keeps the cross of Jesus prominent in his message. 

Through the cross, Paul and the world have been crucified to each other. 

Lastly, circumcision doesn't matter in this-- only a new creation.

1TI 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. [12] Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Timothy was from Galatia. Paul's charge to Timothy involves his public "good confession" presumably made at his baptism (ref. Acts 8:37, Romans 10:9).

2 TI 1:5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 

Timothy has both a mother and a grandmother who were believers, and Timothy grew in time to have his own "sincere faith."

In the Galatian letter, we may notice the past tense actions that seem connected to their conversion: justified through faith in Christ, sons of God through faith, coming to know God, crucified with Christ, crucified the flesh. The crucifixion of Jesus prominent-- perhaps because of the idolatry and sacrifices of the natives (Acts 14)-- Jesus may have been presented as the "best sacrifice?"

Timothy presents an interesting case of a Galatian. Having a Christian grandmother and mother (though a Greek father), he too grew to have a "sincere faith" like them. Little is known more precisely about his and upbringing and conversion, though interestingly he was not circumcised until he joined Paul as a missionary (Acts 16:3). His conversion at least consisted of a "good confession."

Philippi
Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia, the southern area of modern-day Greece. It was a destination of God's choosing for Paul and Silas. The Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in other areas, then one night Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man asking for help. Paul concluded that God himself was directing them to Macedonia. There were two particular individuals whose conversions are discussed in Acts: the merchant Lydia and the anonymous jailer.

Paul went on to establish quite a close relationship with this church. The Philippians helped support him in other misionary activity in the area (Phil. 4:15), and Paul's companion Luke appears to have stayed in this city for quite some time even as Paul moved on (ref. Acts 16:11, 16:40-17:1; notice the "we" vs. "they" pronouns).

He later wrote to the Philippians in appreciation for their support, but made no mention of matters surrounding their conversion. The church was evidently susceptible to the Judaizing influence that he urged them to reject (Phil 3:2ff). This suggests that the church primarily consisted of Gentiles or God-fearers.

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AC 16:11 Therefore putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; [12] and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. 

The exact length of time is not known; but their stay in Philippi was long enough to reach at least a few people.

AC 16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 

Interestingly, Paul and his companions went to the riverside and not a synagogue on the Sabbath. Perhaps there was no synagogue-- or perhaps God continued working to assure that some particular people were able to hear and respond to the message.

(research why women might have gathered apart from the synagogue-- were they God-fearers? Jews?)

AC 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. [15] And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Lydia was among the women who had gathered by the river to pray. What exactly Paul said is unknown, but the Lord opens her heart to respond. She and her household were then baptized. No husband or children are mentioned; "household" is probably referring to servants or companions. 

AC 16:16 And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling. [17] Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." [18] And she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment.

[19] But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, [20] and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, [21] and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans." [22] And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. [23] And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; [24] and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks. 

This place of prayer by the river evidently became a common meeting place for them, and having the river water close by certainly made baptizing more convenient. 

AC 16:25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; [26] and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened. [27] And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. [28] But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!" [29] And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, [30] and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 

[31] And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. [33] And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. [34] And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Paul and Silas respond to the beating by singing hymns of praise while the other prisoners listen in. Perhaps these hymns has some words that expressed various elements of the gospel message.

This local earthquake seems to have more or less destroyed the prison, yet there is no mention of any other damage in the city. It seems that none of the prisoners escaped, though the prison doors were opened and the chains were unfastened. The jailer was about to kill himself when Paul said they were all still present. 

The jailer brings out Paul and Silas (doesn't say anything about the others) and wants to know what to do to be saved. Paul tells him believe in the Lord, then he speaks the message to him and his household. They jailer and his household were then baptized. 

On the question of whether the "household" could have consisted in fants or children, we observe that the "household" heard and believed the message and was baptized-- not something young children or infants could do.

 AC 16:35 Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, "Release those men." [36] And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, "The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Now therefore, come out and go in peace." [37] But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out." [38] And the policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. And they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, [39] and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. [40] And they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Paul and Silas met with the other brothers at the house of Lydia prior to leaving town. Who else had been converted in town besides the households of Lydia and the jailer, we do not know. 


Thessalonica

Thessalonica was the next stop for Paul and his companions after leaving Philippi. This account in Acts succintly illustrates the basic crux of Christian conversion for the Jews: the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah.

After leaving Thessalonica, Paul moved on to Athens and wrote the Thessalonian epistles. In these epistles, we see more information about the things that the Thessalonians were taught before Paul had to leave. Presented just after their conversions, this is one of the most detailed pictures of ministry to new converts in the entire New Testament. Much of the past teaching that is mentioned in the Thessalonian epistles appears to have been taught immediately subsequent to their conversions.

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Observations

AC 17:1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. [2] And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, [3] explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." 

Paul and his companions go into the synagogue for three Sabbaths and reasoned (dielexato) from the Scriptures concerning the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah (these were the known sticking points to the Jews). After that, Paul's message was simple: Jesus is the Christ. 

AC 17:4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 

Some Jews were persuaded (peitho) about the truth of this claim, as well as many God-fearers. They joined (proskleroo) Paul and Silas. 

1 TH 1:4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; [5] for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 

Paul confirms God's work in choosing the Thessalonians, and states that the gospel came not just in word but also with some demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power.

1 TH 1:9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 

This is a reference to people converted from idolatry, but the Gentile Thessalonian's synagogue involvement may be seen as a transitional phase in their conversion from idolatry to God.

1 TH 2:1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, [2] but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. [3] For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; [4] but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts. [5] For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness-- [6] nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. [7] But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. [8] Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. [9] For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. [10] You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; [11] just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, [12] so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

This section of Scripture provides great insight into the manner of outreach that Paul conducted in Thessalonica.  We might observer the following elements:

1- boldness amidst opposition
2- pure motives to preach-- just a matter of obeying God
3- absence of flattery, greed and glory-seeking
4- not exerting authority, but gentle as a new mother
5- genuine affection, sharing of life as well as gospel
6- modeling of righteousness for new believers
7- fatherly direction for them to live a life worthy of  God
 

1TH 2:13 And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Paul was appreciative of the fact that the message was received as the word of God and not men. 

In addition, he says that the word performs its work in those who believe. 

1 TH 3:4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. 

The Thessalonians were taught that as the Messiah suffered, those who follow him are likely to suffer as well. 

1TH 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.

Part of their instruction was to live in a matter pleasing to God. Exactly how to do this in each situation requires additional detailed instruction, but the general principle was made known from the outset. 

2 TH 1: 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, [10] when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed--for our testimony to you was believed.

One way to describe the Thessalonians is by how they are different from those who persecute them. They are said to have believed Paul's testimony to them, know God and to have obeyed the gospel of Jesus. 

2TH 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. [14] And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

In contrast to the unbelievers, through the gospel God chose them for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 

2TH 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; [2] and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 

Prayers for the conversion of others indicate that God plays some role in the process. 

Notice that Luke does not give much in the way of details concerning conversion now that this has been discussed more in depth previously in Acts. There is mention of faith in the message, though not a direct reference to repentance, baptism or confession. Repentance-- turning to God from idols; baptism-- obeying the gospel; confession-- accepting the message.

Corinth
The church at Corinth was started during the apostle Paul's second missionary journey after stops in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians letter from Ephesus, his next stop on the mission field after Corinth.

There have been many attempts to re-construct the various letters back and forth between Paul and the Corinthians. More detail on this study beyond the scope of our study here and not especially relevant. We do know that the primary occassion of the first (canonical) Corinthian letter was the problem that had developed in the Corinth with attaching far to much importance to the various ministers of the word. The Corinthians had also written some questions on various miscellaneous matters (including clarifications on items from what seems to have been a previous letter from Paul) , which he addressed point by point. It is also evident that he plans a future visit. The second (canonical) Corinthian letter doesn't discuss matters of the Corinthians' conversion at all, though it is quite a glimpse into Paul's own thinking and motives concerning his ministry in general terms.

Text

Observations

AC 18:1 After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. [2] And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, [3] and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers. [4] And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Paul arrived at Corinth and went into the synagogue every Sabbath, reasoning (dielegeto) and  trying to persuade (peitho) Jews and Greeks (that is, God-fearers). 

 

AC 18:5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. [6] And when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles." [7] And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 

On other days of the week, he was working with (and living with!) a fellow Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Once Silas and Timothy return, Paul devotes himself to the ministry exclusively, solemnly testifying (diamarturoo) to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. There was some negative response which led Paul to leave the synagogue and go next door. 

AC 18:8 And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.

However, Crispus the synagogue leader and all his household are said to have believed. In addition, many Corinthians heard, believed and were baptized. 

(Again, a household is said to have believed and been baptized)

AC 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; [10] for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city." [11] And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Paul is given a vision encouraging his perseverance in Corinth. Again, we see the idea that God is actively behind this particular ministry in this particular place at this particular time.  Thus, Paul stayed and taught the word for a year and a half. 

AC 18:27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. [28] For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

After the departure of Paul and his companions, Apollos (now accurately instructed in the way) takes up the debate with the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 

1 CO 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, [15] that no man should say you were baptized in my name. [16] Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. [17] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

Here we find that Paul personally baptized a small number of people when the church first began. 

(Interestingly, Acts 18:8 says Crispus "believed", but here we find that he was baptized by Paul personally. This illustrates that Luke often refers to one element of conversion rather than mentioning all elements each time. )

Some have attempted to minimize the importance of baptism on the basis of v. 17 but the point of this passage is that many could physically perform baptisms but that Paul was uniquely commissioned to preach the gospel. And-- Paul still personally baptized some. 

1CO 1:18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written,
  "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
  AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE."

  1CO 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? [21] For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. [22] For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; [23] but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, [24] but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [25] Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

This passage shows that the proclamation of the cross was central to his message. Indeed, Jews looked for signs and Greeks looked for wisdom, but to them the cross was respectively a stumbling block and foolishness.

1CO 1:26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; [27] but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, [28] and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, [29] that no man should boast before God. [30] But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, [31] that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."

Paul makes two observations about the new Christians in Corinth: 1)  God chooses the weak and foolish things of the world in preference over the strong and wise, and 2) It was God's doing that the Corinthian Christians were in Christ. 

1CO 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. [2] For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. [3] And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. [4] And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

As in 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul summarizes his ministry in Corinth. Yet these remarks make a strong statment about the message: Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

In manner, Paul reminds his readers of his weakness, fear and trembling.  Though Acts shows Paul reasoning and trying to persuade the Corinthians, the strength of his message was not based upon better debate techniques or clever expressions of ideas. In contrast, he spoke of little more than Jesus and him crucified. 

1 CO 3:5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. [6] I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. [7] So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. [8] Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. [9] For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Paul declares the place of preachers in evangelism: servants through whom people believe he message. 

And here again is the idea that God provides the opportunities for people to minister, and that God causes the growth.

1CO 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. [11] For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Here the foundation of the church is said to be Jesus. In context, this is in comparison to the various ministers who proclaim the messsage. 

1CO 4:14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. [15] For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 

Paul claims that his being the source of the gospel for the Corinthians makes him their spiritual father. 

1 CO 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, [10] nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

Paul gives an interesting summary of the Corinthians: Though they had been characterized by participation in various sins, they were "washed," "sanctified" and "justified" in the name of Christ and in the Spirit of God. This is probably a reference to their Gentile, pagan standing prior to conversion and their baptisms with the characteristic "in the name of Christ" formula.

 1CO 12:12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. [13] For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 

In a larger discussion of the members of the body, Paul comments that all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit into one body. He also mentions that baptism was the same for Jews and Greeks, slave or free.

1CO 14:23 If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? [24] But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; [25] the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.

In the midst of a discussion about the role and relative value of the gift of tongues, Paul maks an interesting observation about how an unbeliever in the midst of the assembly might ome to faith: Through prophesying, he might be "convicted," "called to account" and the "secrets of his heart be disclosed."  Whether this is possible through preaching in the absence of the miraculous gift of prophecy is not clear from the context 

1CO 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, [2] by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, [5] and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; [7] then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; [8] and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. [9] For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. [11] Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

This text is a succinct summary and restatement of the gospel the Corinthians heard.  Notice the key elements:

1- Christ died for sins according to the Scriptures
2- He was buried and raised form the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures
3- After the resurrection he was seen by the apostles and some others. 

Paul claims this is what he preaches, and this is what the Corinthians believed.  If they hold to this message, they will be saved-- but if do not, it is possible for them to have believed "in vain" (i.e. disqualifying themselves for the reward).

Ephesus
The church at Ephesus is one of the most well-known churches in the New Testament. First, there are several instances in Acts where the church in Ephesus is in view. Later, Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians. In addition, Timothy lived in Ephesus when he received the letter 1 Timothy from Paul (though this letter says nothing about the conversion of the Ephesians).

According to the early church fathers, Ephesus was the base of operations for the apostle John when he wrote his letters. Lastly, Ephesus was the leading city of the seven churches of Asia addressed in Revelation. Thus, there are six books of the New Testament that have some bearing upon the topic of proclamation and conversion in the city of Ephesus.

However, only Acts and the letter to the Ephesians will be discussed here. No other elements from the other books mentioned have any bearing upon the initial conversions of the Ephesians.

Text

Observations

AC 18:19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. [20] And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, [21] but taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus.

A short visit where Paul reasoned with the Jews. No mention is made of converts, but Paul leaves on friendly terms, with the Ephesians actually wishing he would stay longer.

AC 18:24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. [25] This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; [26] and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Apollos is heard teaching Jesus in the synagogue, though instructed only in the baptism of John. Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and corrected this decifiency.

AC 19:1 And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, [2] and he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." [3] And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." [4] And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." [5] And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [6] And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. [7] And there were in all about twelve men.

Paul found some disciples at Ephesus, though it seems they were not in the synagogue previously visited by him, Aquila and Apollos. Interestingly, these people seem to have a connection with the same level of teaching concerning Jesus as Apollos orignially had, as they too were also only familiar up to John's baptism. Paul instructed them concerning this deficiency and then baptized them.

AC 19:8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. [9] But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. [10] And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.Perhaps these twelve men formed their own synagogue, as Paul enters this synagogue, and "reasons" and "persuades" them concerning the kingdom. 

As opposition arose within that synagogue, Paul went to a lecture hall and continued "reasoning" with hearers from all of Asia (the Roman political province covering modern Eastern Turkey , not the continent as we know it today).


AC 19:11  And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, [12] so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. [13] But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." [14] And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [15] And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" [16] And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. [17] And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 

[18] Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. [19] And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. [20] So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

Many believers came and confessed magic (possibly occult) involvement, and publicly destroyed books worth quite a sum of money. (It is interesting that no one seems to have questioned their prior conversion, repentance or baptism.)

 AC 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. [18] And when they had come to him, he said to them,

  AC 20:18 "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, [19] serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; [20] how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, [21] solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

This passage is perhaps the most clear summary of Paul's manner and message of ministry. Concerning evangelism, he speaks of humility and tears in trials. He taught both in public and in private. The message was repentance towards (eis) God (not "of" certain sins) and faith in Christ (cf. Hebrews 6:1).

AC 20:22 "And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, [23] except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. [24] "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. 

He summarizes his ministry as his testimony to the "gospel of the grace of God."

EPH 1:13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Here we see a reference to their conversion, with a rough sequence of events:
- listening to the gospel
- believing
- being sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit

EPH 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), [6] and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, [7] in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

First, the conversion of the Ephesians and Paul is described as being "made alive together with Christ," being "raised up with Him" and "seated with Him in the heavenly places." This is quite likely a reference to baptism (ref. Rom 6:3-4).

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 

Reiterating the role of grace, the Ephesians were saved (perfect participle) by grace (chariti este sesosmenoi) through faith (dia pisteos).

Eph 4:20-24 may at first glance appear to be related to conversion, but it is a directive towards ongoing spiritual growth as reflected in the Eph 4:25ff, similar to remarks made in other letters (e.g. Col 3:1ff ).

There are some unique elements pertaining to conversions in Ephesus. These include the prominence of believers in Jesus who has only been instructed to the point of John's baptism (who were then instructed and promptly administered Christian baptism), the subsequent public confession by believers of past or perhaps even present "magic" involvement (whose initial repentance and baptism were not questioned though this sin did not come to light until some time after their conversions). By way of summary, Paul said the people were taught of repentance towards God and faith in Christ. They were connected with Jesus in baptism (made alive with him, raised up with Him, seated with Him). Lest any might think they deserved their salvation, he persistently taught salvation was by grace through faith.

Romans
Though the church in Rome grew to be the largest and most influential congregation in the world, its beginnings are not especially clear. Some Roman Jews and Jewish converts are numbered among those at Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and presumably many of them were among the three thousand who responded. It is likely that some of these in time returned to Rome and thus formed the earliest Roman church.

In Acts 18:2, we learn of the Emporer Claudius' expulsion of all Jews from Rome. This evidently included all Christians (to the Romans there was little difference), and through this expulsion Paul came to meet Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. Aquila was a Jew from Pontus, though it is not known where he first became acquainted with the gospel. Paul desired to visit Rome (Acts 19:21) and seems to have written the letter to the Romans during his journey to Jerusalem with the offering for the poor (Romans 15:25-26, ref. Acts 20:1-6). Thus, quite a significant congregation was in existence when Paul wrote to it.

Of course, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and eventually made it to Rome as a result of his appeal to Caesar (Acts 23:11). As Paul arrived in Rome, he was greeted by brothers (Acts 28:14-15). Little is known of his ministry there, except that he was released and later went on to do more missionary work. Paul did suffer a second Roman imprisonment which ended in his execution.

During these Roman imprisonments, Paul seems to have written several epistles-- certainly Philippians and 2 Timothy. Some consider the other so-called "prison epistles" to have been written from these Roman imprisonments also, though others argue that these could have been written during other imprisonments Paul suffered (Caesarea, for instance). However, in letters that originated from Rome (or could have done so), little is said of the Roman church.

The letter to the Hebrews was written either to or from Rome on the basis of Hebrews 13:24. However, Hebrews will be addressed in a separate section of this study. What we will discuss here are matters relating to conversion discussed in Acts 28 (Paul's brief ministry description in Rome) and the letter to the Romans.  

Text

Observations

AC 28:23 And when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. [24] And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. [25] And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, [26] saying,
  `GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY,
  "YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
  AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; [27] FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
  AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
  AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES;
  LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
  AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
  AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
  AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM."'

  AC 28:28 "Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen." [29] [And when he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]

  AC 28:30 And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, [31] preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

Paul's message to the Roman Jews consisted of discussions about the kingdom of God and Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies of Moses and the Prophets. 

Some were "persuaded" while others did not "believe." The Greek word for "persuaded" (peitho) is often translated "obey";  thus this is the first of many references where the concepts of obedience and faith are functionally synonymous.

While Paul warned the unpersuaded, he also indicated that the Gentiles would indeed receive what many Jews had rejected.

RO 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake, 

The objective of Paul's apostleship was to bring about the obedience as a result of faith.

RO 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 

Their faith is reported throughout the world. Here faith is used as a figure of speech for their conversion to Christ. See Rom 16:

RO 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [17] For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

Paul states the his gospel brings salvation to everyone who "believes" (present participle of pisteuo). This doesn't reference a conversion event but rather contrasts with the sinfulness of both Gentile and Jew, as he will go on to discuss.

RO 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, [6] who WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: [7] to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; [8] but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. [9] There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [11] For there is no partiality with God. [12] For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; [13] for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 

Paul seems to suggest that one might be saved through obedience to the law, but his later comments seem to render this as a mere hypothetical condition as he explains the gospel.

RO 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

Jews and Gentiles are different in many ways, but similar in being under sin.

RO 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; [20] because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

No one can be justified before God by works of the Law. This is in response to the ideas referenced in Romans 2:5.

RO 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, [22] even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; [25] whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; [26] for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  [27] Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. [28] For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

However, righteousness is available from God through faith in Christ. 

This does not explain what the proclamation might be or exactly what reponses is necessary to the gospel . It simply illustrates the possibility of salvation apart from the Law.

RO 4:22 Therefore also IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. [23] Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him, [24] but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, [25] He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Abraham's righteousness from faith is the pattern for Christian righteousness. 

Here we see some evidence of the gospel message: believing God who raised Jesus the Lord from the dead. 

RO 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, [2] through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Justified (aorist) by faith (ek pisteos) suggests that faith preceeds and causes justification.

RO 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. [8] But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. [10] For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. [11] And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The relationship between the death of Christ and salvation is more closely examined. Christians are not justified by faith only (as 5:1), but also by his blood. Without the blood, faith is impotent for salvation.

Clearly, reconciliation and salvation are through the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

RO 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 

This is a hyperbole, we should not think that the death of Jesus saves all men regardless of their response to the gospel.

RO 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? [2] May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? [3] Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, [6] knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; [7] for he who has died is freed from sin. [8] Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, [9] knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.

Paul's immediate interest here is whether Christians ought to continue in sin, that grace might increase. He argues "no" on the basis of their conversions. Having died to sin, how can one live in it? And this death to sin and newness of life comes through baptism. 

Paul considers those baptized as co-participants in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. Immersion models the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and allows the one being baptized to participate in them. It is not a mere "outward sign" in regards to conversion. 

Christian assurance comes from having died with Christ and having been raised with him. And Christians die with Christ and are raised with Christ in baptism.

RO 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! [16] Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 

Paul addresses the second hypothetical arguement of the chapter: may Christians sin because they are not under law but grace? 

Paul answers that "being under grace" also means having obeyed from the heart the teaching they heard. This "obeyed" is a Greek aorist tense, referring back to a point in time in the past at the time of their conversions. Thus, their conversions were not about "faith alone" but also about "obeying the form of teaching" contained in the gospel. 

This "wholeharted obedience" is not the same as obedience  to the Law.  It is the faithful expected response to the gospel itself.

ROM 10:8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, [9] that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; [10] for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. [11] For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." [12] For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; [13] for "WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD will be saved." 

Paul identifies his proclamation as a "word of faith." He sees two aspects of the reponse: confessing Jesus as Lord and truly believing that God raised Jesus from the dead. 

Each of the verbs in 10:9 (confess, believe and be saved) are all Greek subjunctive mode verbs, in keeping with the hypothetical element "if" (Greek ean) at the beginning of the verse. 

The relationships between believing and righteousness,  and confessing and salvation are the same: belief towards (Greek preposition eis) righteounesness, confesing towards salvation. And in context, these are all contrasted with the works of the Law. 

ROM 11:20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.  Do not be conceited, but fear; [21] for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. [22] Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. [23] And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 

In the midst of his discussion about the Jews and the Gentiles, Paul makes an interesting observation: The Jews were broken off due to their lack of faith in Christ, but Gentiles were grafted in because of their faith.

Further, the Jews could be grafted in if the do not continue in unbelief.

RO 13:11 And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 

Paul's intent here is motivate the Romans towards righteousness as the time of the end approaches. In doing so he makes reference to the time when they "believed." The verb for faith here is in the aorist tense, which refers to a point of time in the past marking the beginning of their concern about such things.

RO 15:30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, [31] that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; [32] so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. 

Paul's refers to the Jews who have not yet accepted Jesus as Christ as "disobedient." We` might have expected him to say "unbelieving" but this is an instance illustrating that these terms were considered functionally equivalent.

RO 16:5 Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 

The term "convert" does not appear in the Greek, which more literally translated reads "... who is first of Asia towards Christ." This text says nothing about the conversion process, only that Epaenetus was the first one from Asia to become a Christian.

RO 16:19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. 

As their faith has been reported throughout the world (Rom 1:8), so also their "obedience" is also reported. Each term is a figure of speech referring to their conversion to Christ. This is another instance of the practical equivalence of the terms "faith" and "obedience"  with reference to the gospel.

RO 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, [26] but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; [27] to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

Paul's closing doxology again references the "obedience of faith" through the gospel of Christ. 



4. Proclamation and Conversions Discussed in Epistles Only
Colosse, Philemon
Colosse was a city in Asia (modern day Asia Minor or Turkey) about 100 miles east of Ephesus and 40 miles south of Laodicea (ref. Col 4:13,16). It probably was started as a result of Paul's ministry in Ephesus (ref. Acts 19:10, 19:26). Epaphras was one of Paul's companions (Col 4:12, Plm 1:23), and he initially brought the message of the gospel to Colosse (Col 1:7).

Philemon also lived in Colosse and received the letter bearing his name. Other people who also lived in Colosse were Apphia,  Archippus and Onesimus. The latter was a runaway slave that Paul converted and sent back to Colosse and his former owner Philemon.

Most of what is said concerning proclamation and conversion in the letters to Colosse is theological reflection in light of false teachings present in the area rather than describing what was actually taught or how the people actually responded.  

Text

Observations

 COL 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, [6] which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; [7] just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, [8] and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

The oustanding feature of the Colossians' initial Christian experience was their "faith in Christ" and their "love for all the saints."

The Colossians heard the gospel of the grace of God from Epaphras and it "bore fruit" (had a result) in them from the begining just as it does elsewhere. Conversion is a reult of the gospel. They are said to have "understood" (Greek aorist tense) the grace of God in truth.

COL 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. [13] For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

The Colossians (and Paul) were qualified to have their inheritance by God. 

Conversion is expressed as being delivered from the domain (basileia, kingdom) of darkness and being "transferred" to the kingdom of the Son. An interesting feature of the Greek text of these passages is the aorist verbs "delivered" and "transferred." These suggest  actions at a point in time, presumably conversion time.

Key results of conversion mentioned here are redemption and forgiveness of sins. 

However, in this discussion there is no mention of the specific proclamation or response. 

COL 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, [22] yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- 

Conversion takes place as a reconciliation done by Christ through connection with the death of Jesus. "Reconciled" here is an aorist tense verb, like those in 1:13.

COL 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 

Part of the proclamation to the Gentiles was Christ himself, with a view towards spiritual maturity in Christ. 

COL 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, [7] having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Another trait of proclamation and conversion here is receiving Jesus as Lord.

COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. [13] And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, [14] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

Here we see the "burial/resurrection with Jesus" elements connected with baptism. Aorist tense verbs 2:12 "buried" (participle), "raised"; 2:13 "made alive", "forgiven" (partciple); 2:14 "cancelled", "nailed" (to the cross. The idea here is that by baptism the Colossians were joined to the burial and resurrection of Christ.

Being "made alive" is also connected with the forgiveness of sins.

COL 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, [21] "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 

This conditional sentence raises a question based upon a presupposition: that the Chritians in of Colosse "died with Christ"  to the elementary principles of the world. Again, "died" (with Christ) is an aorist tense verb.

COL 3:1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. [3] For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

Another reference to them being raised up with Christ, now as a motivation for continued spiritual improvement. "Raised up" is an aorist tense verb.

COL 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, [10] and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

"Laid aside" and "put on" are also aorist verbs (participles), again pointing to a finite past action. Part of conversion was laying aside the old self and putting on a new self; Paul now presents this as a motivation for ongoing moral change.

COL 3:12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Conversion also has to do with the choosing of God. 

PLM 1:10 I appeal to you for my child, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Onesimus, [11] who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. 

Paul converted Onesimus and referred to him as a "begotten child."

Pastoral Epistles
The pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) share a common viewpoint and objective: each was a personal letter to a church leader from Paul, fundamentally for instruction concerning ministry and the spiritual life of the leader addressed. It is reasonable and beneficial to examine them as a group.

Timothy was a Ephesus when he received 1 Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3), but his exact location upon receipt of 2 Timothy is unknown. Titus was at Crete when he received the letter bearing his name (Titus 1:5). In the case of 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul had been in each of these locations and had left Timothy or Titus behind to continue to lead these churches. In the case of 2 Timothy, Paul was imprisoned shortly before his execution in Rome (2 Timothy 2:9, 4:6).

These letters do not typically discuss the conversions of those to whom Timothy and Titus ministered, but these pastoral epistles do discuss proclamation and conversion in general terms and thus have something to contribute to this study.  

Text

Observations

1 TI 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. [16] And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 

Jesus' purpose as a Savior of sinners is clear, as is the primary element of receiving that salvation: belief in him.

1 TI 2:3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. [7] And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Salvation and a knowledge of the truth are used together, showing a close linkage between knowing the truth (i.e. gospel) and salvation. Though not all men will be saved, God wants all men saved and Jesus died as a ransom for all men.

1 TI 3:16 And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
  He who was revealed in the flesh,
  Was vindicated in the Spirit,
  Beheld by angels,
  Proclaimed among the nations,
  Believed on in the world,
  Taken up in glory.

This was an early Christian psalm or summary statement of belief known in Ephesus is not elsewhere. It indicates that Jesus was "proclaimed among the nations" and "believed on" in the world. 

1 TI 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. 

God stands as the Savior of all mankind, especially for those who believe. This is a generic reference to Christians as "believers;" this text says nothing about the proclamation or response. 

1 TI 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

Here we see a short reference to the "good confession" that Timothy made (aorist tense, indicating point type of action in past time), presumably at the time of his conversion.

2 TI 1:5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Sincere faith is said to "dwell in" Timothy as it had in his mother and grandmother.

2 TI 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, [9] who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, [10] but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, [11] for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. [12] For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. [13] Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 

Salvation is seen as a something originating in the mind of God for his purposes. The call to salvation also includes a call to holy living.

Jesus is said to have abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This is a clear reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus as "the gospel."

Paul reflects on the cause for his own lifestyle: it is his belief (Greek perfect tense, specific action in past whose effect continues to this present time) in Jesus. 

2 TI 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,  [9] for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. [10] For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.  [11] It is a trustworthy statement:
  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; [12] If we endure, we shall also reign with Him;
  If we deny Him, He also will deny us; [13] If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

The death and resurrection of Jesus, according to the Scriptures, are cited as the core of Paul's gospel.

The trustworthy statement points to to conversion: if we died with him (aorist tense), we shall live with him.  This points to the time of conversion and thus baptism, where one shares in Christ's death (Romans 6:3-4).

2 TI 2:23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. [24] And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, [25] with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

The phrase "knowledge of the truth" appears again, this time as a result of God's granting of repentance in light of gentle instruction.

2 TI 3:14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; [15] and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Paul considers the "sacred writings" (that is, our Old Testament) as the source of wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ. 

TIT 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, [2] in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, [3] but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior;

Paul's proclamation represents the fulfillment of God's ancient promises and is intended to lead to faith, knowledge of the truth and eternal life. 

TIT 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, [6] namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 

Though discussing the child of a candidate for the eldership, this may help shed light upon the question of when a child becomes a "spiritual adult."

One of the criteria for an elder is that his children must believe and not be accused  of particular sins.  The sin of rebellion suggests an age of making his or her own value judgments, while the sin of dissipation is of a sexual nature and requires the child to be at least past the age of puberty. 

TIT 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, [12] instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, [13] looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; [14] who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

God's grace has appeared and brought salvation to all men. Part of its call it away from worldliness and towards holiness. Those who heed its instructions are redeemed and belong to God. 

TIT 3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. [4] But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, [5] He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, [6] whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

God's salvation comes at the appearance of God's kindness and love. This "saving" is spoken of as a part event (aorist tense verb).

God's work of salvation is not based upon man's deeds but by God's mercy and grace through the "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." This helps explain the place of baptism in conversion. 

Hebrews
The author and intended destination of the Hebrew letter are unknown. The mention of Timothy's release (Heb 13:23) and greetings to the readers from those hailing from Italy (Heb 13:24) suggest this was written from a significant Roman city to Christians somewhere in Italy. The practice of the Law of Moses is mentoned in the present tense (Heb 10:11), indicating that this was probably written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Both the writer and readers were second-generation Christians, having heard the message from those who heard Christ (Heb 2:3). The original readers were in danger from some form of spiritual decline, and the author's aim was to give them reasons and encouragement to regain their spiritual strength. There are a few instances in the letter that seem to discuss the idea of proclamation and response at conversion time.

Text

Observations

HEB 1:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, [2] in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 

God's ultimate message did no come in words only, but in the life of Jesus Christ.

 HEB 2:1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. [2] For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, [3] how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, [4] God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Salvation is connected to the message, which must be heeded even after conversion! The message of salvation was "announced" by the Lord but "confirmed" to the author and readers by those who heard the Lord. 

This statement confirms that the apostolic proclamation and response was not an arbitrary invention of the apostles but something from the Lord himself (ref. Mat 16:19, Acts 2:38-41). 

HEB 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Part of Christian conversion consists of some level of assurance of faith.

HEB 4:1 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. [2] For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 

In order for the proclamation to have an effect upon people, it must be believed. 

 HEB 5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. [13] For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. [14] But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

  HEB 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [2] of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [3] And this we shall do, if God permits. 

While discussing the reader's lack of maturity, the author touches on what he terms "foundation," "elementary teachings" and "milk" about Christ, in three couplets:

- repentance from dead works and faith toward God
- instruction about washings and laying on of hands
- resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment

 

HEB 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 

The Hebrew writer refers to past instances of "sprinkling" and "washing" with perfect participles, indicating past actions whose effects continue. The sprinkling is a reference to the once-for-all sacrificed blood of Christ replacing the blood of sacrifices in the Law (Heb 9:21-22), "washing with pure water "is probably a reference to that lasting impact of baptism.

There is also a mention of the "confession of hope" which seems to connect with conversion in this context.

 HEB 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith

Here is another reference to those who preached the word to the readers.  The message itself is not mentioned, but the conduct and example of these teachers were intended to have a lasting impact as a model to the readers.


James

The letter of James was written by the brother of Jesus (ref. Acts 1:13, 12:17). His audience was Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman world (ref. Jas 1:1). The primary thrust of the letter is godly living in keeping with their profession of faith. However, there are some vague references to the point in time where his readers came to faith in him.

Text

Observations

JAS 1:21 Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

James considers salvation possible because of the implanting of the word into the hearts and souls of his hearers.

JAS 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 

His readers came to a point of faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ; this distinguished them from other Jews.

JAS 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

This choosing (Greek aorist tense) by God seems to point to the poverty of the earliest Christians compared to the wealthy Jewish ruling establishment. While his point is for the rich to respect the poor, he identifies faith and loving God as important distinctive traits of Christians.


Peter's Epistles

Peter wrote both of his epistles to Christians scattered in Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1, 2 Peter 3:1). It is not known exactly how he first developed a relationship with these widely-scattered people, but these letters are written to them from Rome towards the end of Peter's life (1 Peter 5:13, 2 Peter 1:14). His letters are generally a reminder of things already taught to and known by his hearers (ref. 2 Peter 1:12). He makes some passing references to conversion.

Text

Observations

1PE 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, [5] who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter considers Christian conversion to be a result of God's great mercy and a new birth through the resurrection of Jesus. This seems to reference baptism as Paul uses similar language elsewhere.

1PE 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, [23] for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 
[24] For,
  "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
  AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
  THE GRASS WITHERS,
  AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, [25] BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER."

1PE 1:25 And this is the word which was preached to you.

This phrase "obedience to the truth" is probably a reference to their positive response to the gospel. (ref. 4:17)

While the passage is urging the readers to love one another, his reasoning for this is that they have been born again (Greek perfect tense, denoting action that occurred in past but its effects continue to the present) through the eternal word of God that was preached to them. 

1PE 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; [10] for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

Their conversions are described as a calling of God out of darkness into light. 

1PE 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, [2] as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 

This section doesn't address proclamation per se, but by contrast with normal conversion, unbelieving husbands may be won over "without a word" by witnessing righteous living. 

The implication is that conversion otherwise results from words, presumably  of teaching and persuasion. 

1PE 3:17  For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. [18] For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; [19] in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, [20] who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. [21] And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, [22] who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

In discussing Christ and his sufferings, Peter discusses the unjust death of Jesus that brought people to God. 

As an aide, he discusses baptism and its foreshadowing by the flood in the time of Noah. Baptism saves through the resurrection of Christ, a connection seen elsewhere in the NT. Yet what makes baptism effective (saving) is not the mere act of washing but its participation with the appeal of a good conscience, reflecting a sincere faith and commitment.
 

1PE 4:15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; [16] but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. [17] For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   [18] AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? [19] Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

This section is urging Christians to live righteously, yet is draws a contrast between Christians and those who do not obey the gospel of God.

2PE 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; [3] seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. [4] For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. [5] Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; [6] and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; [7] and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. [8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. [10] Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; [11] for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Peter sees that the blessings of Christians come as a result of the knowledge of God. This identifies a certain "informational" element to the teaching they received.

[The Christian calling is made certain by faithfulness and growth. In cases where such growth is absent, the problem is seen as  forgetting this past cleaning, not some flaw in the conversion process.  "Making certain" the calling does not seem to have anything to do with re-evaluating proper conversion elements (e.g. "did you really repent?") but rather moving forward in holiness. However, the context probably assumes proper conversion doctrine was taught in the first place.]

2PE 2:20 For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. [21] For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 

Here Peter reiterates a common theme of his, that salvation comes through knowledge of Jesus. 


John's Epistles
The circumstances surrounding John's epistles are not generally known. Thought to be written towards the end of his life, 1 John is a general epistle that seems to proclaim Christian truth in a manner that refutes gnosticism. 2 John and 3 John are short personal letters.

1 John is not concerned with proclamation or conversion but with the lifestyle of a true follower of Christ. His purpose is the encourage those believing in Jesus in the face of various threats (1 Jn 5:13), especially the false teaching that Jesus is not the Son of God (also see 2 Jn 1:7). The rest of his discussion contrasts the difference between the true and false follower of Christ in terms of lifestyle with an encouragement for the true follower to remain true. 2 John briefly encourages the reader to be careful about welcoming false teachers, 3 John commends a certain Gaius for welcoming preachers.

We will examine each of these with a view towards comments about proclamation and conversion.  

Text

Observations

1JN 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life-- [2] and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- [3] what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. [4] And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

The opening of 1 John shows that the gospel message was not just some speculative spiritual philosophy but rather it was rooted in the person of Jesus and the personal experience of the apostles who followed him. Thus, they proclaimed what they saw and heard.

1JN 1:5 And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 

John uses a synecdoche here, having a part of the message represet the entire message. The purity and sinlessness of God was a part of their message.

1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; [7] but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

This text does not relate to conversion but to the lifestyle of those who would claim to follow Jesus.

1JN 2:24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

John urges the readers to hold fast to what they learned in the beginning.

1JN 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1JN 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 

John makes mention of the fact that Christians are born of God and thus children of God.

1JN 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 

Another element of the message from the beginning is the command to love one another.

1JN 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. [10] In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

John touches on the core of the gospel: Jesus became a sacrifice for sins because of God's love. Thus, God's love instructs the follower. Yet, the context is not speaking of proclamation or conversion.

1JN 4:14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. [15] Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 

1JN 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 

1JN 5:5 And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

Part of John's testimony was that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior. Accordingly, part of the response is believing and confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. 

(This belief and confession have special relevance if John's audience is threatened by a gnosticism which denies Jesus could be the Son of God. John's purpose is to assure his readers-- see 5:13-- in the face of false teaching )

1JN  5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. [7] And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. [8] For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 

John cites three witnesses: The Spirit, the water and the blood. The Spirit's witness is seen in the miraculous gifts and proclamation of the gospel; the water testifies to Jesus' baptism and the blood to his death. These authenticate the claim of the gospel: Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

2JN 1:7  For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. [8] Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. [9] Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. [10] If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; [11] for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

False preachers were failing to remain in the teaching of Christ, not acknowledging Jesus as having come in the flesh. Thus, part of the true gospel is the human, historical nature of Jesus Christ. 


Jude
Jude is a short letter written to an unspecified group of Christians. His purpose is to urge his readers to be true to the faith that they originally were taught compared to false teachers who were warping the grace of God and the nature of Jesus. The bulk of his letter is an exposé and condemnation of these false teachers.

Text

Observations

JUDE 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 

Though not specifically discussing the content of the orginal message, Jude wants is readers to not deviate from what they were originally taught.

JUDE 1:4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The false teachings here are 1) warping God's grace into a license to sin, and 2) denying Jesus Christ (probably denying his human nature). 

Thus, the gospel message probably contains true teaching about these things: Grace (such an emphasis that it could be warped into license), and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

JUDE 1:17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, [18] that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 

Whether this apostolic testimony was part of the original proclamation of the gospel or a subsequent instruction is not known. But the warning is true enough: there will always be plenty of false teachers who mock the truth.


Revelation
John wrote the book of Revelation to the seven churches of Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philedelphia, Laodicea). Though the rest of the NT discusses the church in Ephesus in significant detail, the other churches are neglected. Because of this and the nature of the book of Revelation, it seems best to treat these as a group and simply consider what the entire book says about proclamation and conversion.

Text

Observations

REV 2:4 `But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. [5] `Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

Though not directly addressing conversion, the Ephesians once had "first love" and a place they had fallen from (ref. Eph 2:6). 

REV 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. 

This passage has nothing to do with conversion-- it is directed at the Christians of Laodicea who needed to repent.

REV 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?" [14] And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

John touches on the "white robe" symbolism. This seems to be a reference to baptism, or possibly a reference to faithfulness in tribulation. 

"Washed" and "made white" are perfect tense verbs, wheareas "coming out" is a present tense verb. Thus, this washing/whitening of robes does not appear to come from surviving the tribulation but points to some specific past event.

Believers contact the blood of Jesus in baptism by sharing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Rom 6:3-6). They also receive forgiveness of sins, (Acts 2:38, 22:16), thus "washing their robe" in the blood of the Lamb. 

REV 14:6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; [7] and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."

In the midst of all the visions in Revelation, it is interesting that one would be about the gospel: "Fear God, give him glory, worship him." 

The theat threat of Roman emperor worship and Christians' refusal to comply is the background for much of what is said in Revelation. In context, this proclamation clearly indicates the God is truly due what the Roman emperor demanded.

REV 21:5 And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." [6] And He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. [7] "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. [8] "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

In context, this passage is not a proclamation of the gospel to the lost but a statement of assurance to the saved. Yet, it also includes a reference to the free gift of life for those who turn to Jesus and condemnation for those "cowardly and unbelieving" who do not.

REV 22:10 And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. [11] "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." [12] "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 

This passage seems to indicate a time of persecution when evangelism was suspended, but it is more likely a testimony to God's gift of choice to mankind-- each has the freedom to choose how to live, but God will reward men based upon their deeds. 

REV 22:13 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." [14] Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. [15] Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

A reiteration of the proclamation of 21:5ff, with a reference to those who "wash their robes" and receive the reward of God. 

The phrase "wash their robes" references back to 7:14, where the robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb. 



5. The Gospel in the Gospels
Here we will discuss the historical context of the material in the gospels and its relevance towards the question of the proclamation and expected response in the early church. Before getting into the details of how the gospels apply to this question, there are a few subtle but important topics that need to be considered.

The Gospels Were Written in the Church Age
While the events discussed in the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) occur before the establishment of the church in Acts 2, their writing and distribution occurred during the church age-- during the same time period as the other books of the New Testament.

The Gospels Are Still "Occasional"
Just as the epistles have a clear particularity in historical context and initial application, the four gospels also have a specific purpose even if they differ in genre and specificity from the epistles. Without going into a lengthy discussion of the purpose of the various gospels, it might be observed that Matthew tends to focus on the teachings of Jesus in regards to the kingdom of God and the role of the Jews and Gentiles. Mark is the shortest of the gospels and is a fast-moving work that tends to focus on what Jesus did, culminating in the discussion of the crucifixion. Compared to the others, Luke focuses more on Jesus' concern for non-Jews, women and the weak, as well as discussing more external historical elements than the others. John tends to tell of very few specific instances in the life of Jesus, but he discusses these events as a basis for explaining various points that he considers significant-- most notably, faith, true discipleship and the relationship between Jesus and the Father.

Thus, in the gospels we do not have a biography of Jesus that includes everything he did or said, but we have four accounts of actions, teachings and conclusions from the life of Christ that the authors of these gospels considered relevant for their readers in the early church. Theologians call this occasional-- these writings relate to some particular circumstance and time-- an occasion.

Consider the opening of Luke's gospel in this regard:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, [3] it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; [4] so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).

Thus, the gospels served to provide more details to the life and teachings of Jesus compared to what people heard as part of the proclamation of the gospel by word of mouth. Consider this example from Acts 2:

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power (Acts 2:22-24).

The Gospels Did Not Come First
Now it is evident that Jesus' ministry and teachings in the gospels were given in the age before the establishment of the church. The gospels themselves recognize that a change in dispensation was to occur at some point in the future (Jn 7:37-39).

But it may not be so evident that the teachings from the church age (namely, Acts and the epistles) need to be held in priority to those in the gospels when discussing the topic of apostolic proclamation and expected response. The original readers had been exposed to the apostolic kerygma first, and then after their conversion (or at least this initial exposure) they were given subsequent details about Jesus' works and teachings such as those contained in the gospels.

This approach challenges the conventional wisdom that puts the gospels "above" everything else in the Bible (indeed, some Bibles even record the words of Jesus in red letters, as though these sayings are somehow more "inspired" than the rest of the Bible). But if we are to properly understand the context of the gospels, we need to recognize that the gospels followed the kerygma both historically and theologically. When we approach the gospels with this understanding, we are able to correctly apply the the teachings of Jesus and the gospels to the study of the apostolic proclamation in the church age.

What is Meant by "Kingdom" in the Gospels
Jesus' ministry was conducted under the covenant of Moses, the "old law." In the time of the gospels, John the Baptist's ministry rose and receded in favor of the ministry of Jesus. In considering the question of proclamation and response in the gospels, it is important to discuss the kingdom because this terminology is so prevalent.

"The Kingdom" is often used as an all encompassing term to identify the preaching of Jesus and the apostles. This terminology identified Jesus with "The King" of Deuteronomy 17 and as the Son of David (2 Sam 7:12-13, Isaiah 9:7, Lk 1:32). The kingdom terminology is often used in a proclamation/response context.

In Jesus' ministry, the kingdom is held in tension between the present and the future. Sometimes the term refers to God's existing rule in Israel (Mt 21:43) and it is certainly manifested in Christ's miraculous works (Mt 12:28, Lk 17:21). Yet there is something new being brought about in regards to the kingdom, as it is the coming kingdom of David (Mk 11:10, Lk 19:11), a future entity that is "at hand" or "near" (Mt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, Lk 22:18, 23:51) and may be entered at some future time (Mt 5:19-20, 6:10, 7:21, 18:3, Mk 15:43, Jn 3:3,5).

This "future" kingdom spoken of during Jesus' ministry has its manifestation in the church (Mt 16:19, Acts 1:8, Rom 14:17, 1 Cor 4:20, Col 1:13, 1 Th 2:12, 2 Tim 4:1, Heb 12:28, Rev 1:6, 1:9), even as it is a future kingdom at the culmination of all things (1 Cor 6:9-10, 15:24, 15:50, Gal 5:21, Eph 5:5, 2 Th 1:5, 2 Tim 4:18, Jas 2:5, 2 Pt 1:11).

"Preaching the Gospel" in the Gospels
The word "gospel" itself has different uses in the gospels. The term literally means "good news." It is used to describe the preaching of John the Baptist (Lk 3:18), Jesus (Mt 4:23, Mk 1:14-15) and the apostles (Lk 9:6); the New Testament speaks of "preaching the gospel"
41 times.

In addition, other terms are sometimes used to describe the preaching process (e.g. the verbs proclaim, testify; noun good news). However, it is not possible to discern any details about what might have been preached or expected from the mere usage of these terms. If we are to understand what was preached and what was the expected response, we will have to examine individual instances of preaching and conversion in context. Often, the exact content of this preaching is not specific, but the text of Luke 3:1-18 sheds the most light on the details of the "preaching the gospel" during the ministry of John the Baptist:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, [2] in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. [3] And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; [4] as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
  "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
  `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
  MAKE His paths straight. [5] `EVERY RAVINE SHALL BE FILLED UP,
  AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL SHALL BE BROUGHT LOW;
  AND THE CROOKED SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT,
  AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; [6] AND ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.'"
[7] He therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] "Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. [9] "And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." [10] And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" [11] And he would answer and say to them, "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise." [12] And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." [14] And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."
[15] Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ, [16] John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. [17] "And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
[18] So with many other exhortations also he preached the gospel to the people. (Luke 3:1-18)

This gospel consisted of the message of true repentance and baptism in preparation for the Messiah and his kingdom. This is strikingly similar to the summary statements concerning the gospel preached by Jesus:

And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, [15] and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

Yet, the gospels speak of other uses of the term "gospel." Sometimes the entire story of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is known as the gospel (Mk 1:1). And the gospels also point to the time after the ministry of Jesus when the fulfilled gospel (including discussion of Jesus' death and resurrection) would be preached to all nations:

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." (Mark 9:31, see also Mt 24:14, 26:13, Mk 13:10).

The "Will of God"
Since doing "the will of my Father" is critical to entering the kingdom (Matthew 7:21), it is important to understand the topic of God's will in the gospels. What exactly does this phrase mean? It turns out the phrase is used in several different ways.

A. Jesus doing the Father's will
    1. At the cross

MT 26:42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, You will be done."
LK 22:42 saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

    2. In ministry, bringing salvation to people

MT 18:14 "Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
JN 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.
JN 5:30 "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
JN 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
JN 6:39 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
JN 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

B. Men doing the Father's will

MT 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
MT 12:50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
MT 21:31 "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.
MK 3:35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."
JN 9:31 "We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him.

C. Men Eager to See God's will done

MT 6:10 `Thy kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

D. Knowing God's will

LK 12:47 "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes,
JN 7:17 "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.

The Meaning
"Doing the will of God" is generally a euphemism for obeying God. In a minority of cases, the "will of God" is not something that can be "done" by anyone, but it is an abstract way of representing God's providential plan or desires (e.g. Mt 6:10), especially the salvation of mankind (see item A.2 above).



6. Proclamation and Response in the Gospels
Proclamation and response are an important topic in the gospels, though they are addressed in a variety of different ways. The topics of proclamation and response in the context of conversion are discussed together with varying metaphors or other figures of speech.

Preaching, Hearing and Believing/Obeying
The gospels often speak directly about preaching, hearing and believing/obeying. This is the most straightforward and fundamental expression of proclamation and response in the gospels.

A well-known passage "who has believed our message" (Isaiah 53:1) shows the connection between proclamation and the desired result of faith.

Faith vs. Faithful Action?
The desired intent of proclamation is both faith and faithful action. Some passages discuss faith only, some passages discuss some form of action (e.g. receiving, keeping, abiding in, etc.) only. Faith and faithful action (obedience) are coupled in the Scriptures (e.g. Jn 3:36, Rom 16:26, James 2:14-26).

The "faith only" passages are no more a "proof" that faith alone is powerful any more than the "action only" passages are a proof that action alone is powerful. Proper exegesis demands that these passages be understood in their contexts. And the larger context of the gospels shows that what is necessary is both faith and faithful action.

The following passages discuss the idea of proclamation and subsequent faithful response.

Section

Text

Comments

36,
37

JN 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; [15] that whoever believes (Greek pres. ptc) may in Him have eternal life.

JN 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. [17] "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. [18] "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed  (perfect ptc)  in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 

JN 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

The Greek text here (as well as 13 other times in John's gospel) uses the present participle of pisteuo, believe. It is often translated "whoever believes" but literally means "the believing one." (Also see Isaiah 28:16 Septuagint for this phrase.)

It is God's intent that the "believing one" have eternal life. The object of that faith is Jesus. Conversely, those "not believing ones" are under judgment.

40,41

JN 4:36 "Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. [37] "For in this case the saying is true, `One sows, and another reaps.' [38] "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

JN 4:39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." [40] So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of His word; [42] and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world."

Here, the faith of the Samaritans is the first as a result of the woman's testimony, then also because of Jesus' own words.

45

LK 4:16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. [17] And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, [18] "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
  BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
  HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
  AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
  TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, [19] TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."

LK 4:20 And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. [21] And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus' choice of text and statement of fulfillment connects several important elements of his ministry. The preaching of good news to the poor opens the door to a myriad of blessings to men, though the response leading to those blessings is not discussed. 

62

MT 12:17 in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, might be fulfilled, saying, [18] "BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN;
  MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED;
  I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM,
  AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES. [19] "HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT;
  NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS. [20] "A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF,
  AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT,
  UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. [21] "AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE."

This citation reflects the themes of God's Spirit dwelling upon the Messiah, the spiritual and peaceful (as opposed to political and violent) nature of his ministry, and the blessings of his ministry extending even to to the Gentiles. However, the required response to his ministry in order to receive those blessings is not discussed. 

81

MT 12:46 While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. [47] And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." [48] But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" [49] And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers!  [50] "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

Here we see the notion of "doing the Father's will" is commended by Jesus. Here we see the response discussed (doing the Father's will), and not the proclamation." (Doing the Father's Will" is a worthy discussion on its own and is addressed later in this study.)

83

MT 13:14 "And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
  `YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
  AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; [15] FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
  AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
  AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES
  LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
  AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
  AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
  AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM.'

This passage illustrates the connection between hearing, understanding and "returning" and receiving the blessing of God.

99

MT 10:14 "And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. 

Failing to receive (i.e. believe) the words of the apostles is a rejection of the message.

134

JN 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. [38] "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, `From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" [39] But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Here Jesus extends an invitation for the "thirsty" to "drink." In keeping with the theme of John's gospel, here Jesus is advocating a recognition that He is the answer to their spiritual needs. 

137

JN 8:24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins." 

Failing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God would lead to condemnation.

138

JN 8:31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

JN 8:51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." 

Here we see an important connection between believing and remaining in Jesus' word. Many could hear, many might even believe, but only a few could physically follow as disciples. 

Yet Jesus broadens the term "disciple:" those who abide (Greek meno, abide) in His word are His true disciples. 

Those who keep (Greek tereo) his word shall not see death. Abiding and keeping are used synonymously.

144

LK 11:27 And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed." [28] But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it."

To those seeking to commend Jesus' mother, Jesus makes a point. Blessed rather are those who hear and observe (Greek phulasso, keep or obey) the word of God. 

191

JN 12:37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; [38] that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" [39] For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, [40] "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES, AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART; LEST THEY SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED, AND I HEAL THEM." [41] These things Isaiah said, because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 

[42] Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; [43] for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

This passage shows the connection between Jesus' words, signs and the necessary believing response leading to conversion.

And here we also see that some who believed refused to publicly confess their faith because of the disapproval of their peers. This lack of action comes not from a lack of faith but reflects the values of the heart.

224

JN 17:20 "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; [21] that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me.

Jesus foresaw that people would believe in him through their word, showing a direct connection between the word and faith. 

Yet, Jesus' desire is not limited to their faith, but extends to desiring their unity and faithfulness as a further witness to him.

254

JN 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

JN 20:30 Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

This section is the climax of the gospel of John. While Thomas has seen and believed, others may hear or read about Jesus and believe, and by believing they might have life in his name.


Being Sought After and Found, Called and Following
Jesus often uses the ideas of seeking-after and being found, being called or invited and following to discuss ideas associated with the proclamation and expected response. These have in common the idea that Jesus is the cause behind evangelism, that he seeks out or calls individuals to him.

It is important to distinguish between the specific call of followship that Jesus extended to the Twelve and the generalized call to "followship" that was extended to all. For example, Jesus did not call all to be apostles, but only a few (ref. Lk 6:13). This concept is discussed in more detail in the section, “Disciples, Followers and Believers. “

Section

Text

Comments

55

MK 2:15 And it came about that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax-gatherers and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. [16] And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?" [17] And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus' proclamation includes a call to "sinners." The only evident response at this point is that they were associating with Jesus. 

76

MT 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. [29] "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. [30] "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."

Jesus' invitation to the weary isn't for more or even different weariness, but for rest. 

The response in view is coming to Jesus and taking his yoke, probably meaning his example. 

99,
139

MT 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] "For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; [36] and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. [37] "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. [38] "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. [39] "He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.

MT 10:40 "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. [41] "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. [42] "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward."

Lk 10:16 "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."

To those who might seek to follow after Jesus in his earthly ministry, he expects them to love him over family, and to "take up their crosses" and "lose their lives" following him. This is discussed more in the "Disciples, Followers and Believers" section of this study.

The coming of Jesus and of those he sent can be met with either acceptance or rejection. Receiving is the only acceptable response to Jesus's sent ones.

164

LK 14:15 And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" [16] But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; [17] and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for everything is ready now.' [18] "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, `I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' [19] "And another one said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' [20] "And another one said, `I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' [21] "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, `Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' [22] "And the slave said, `Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' [23] "And the master said to the slave, `Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. [24] `For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'"

The context of this parable is Jesus attending a Sabbath day meal at the house of a prominent Pharisee, and he was being watched closely (Lk 14:1). First, Luke tells us that Jesus questions the leaders concerning healing on the Sabbath, then he challenges the competitiveness of the guests over the seating arrangements.  Thirdly, the told the one who had invited him to not have banquets for his friends-- lest he be repaid for his kindness-- but for those who did not have the means to repay him. This, he would have treasure in heaven that would be repaid at the resurrection.

Hearing of the resurrection, a guest brings up the feast in the kingdom of God, meaning heaven itself. Jesus apparently used this concept of a feast frequently. 

There are several keys to this parable. First, those who had been invited rejected the feast for trivial reasons. The master was angered and was determined about two things: the his house would be full, and that none of those who had been invited would partake of it. 

This parable seems to relate to the rejection of the invitation of Jesus by the Jewish leaders, and the finality of their decision. It also illustrates that the invitation goes out to all everywhere-- to fill up the banquet of the Master.

166

LK 15:1 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. [2] And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

LK 15:3 And He told them this parable, saying, [4] "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? [5] "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' [7] "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

  LK 15:8 "Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? [9] "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' [10] "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The context of this parable is the grumbling of religious leaders who were criticizing Jesus' association with "sinners."  The primary point of these parables is that God rejoices over those who repent and see their relationship to him restored.

It seems that this first parable compares evangelism to looking for lost sheep. Yet by its very nature (contrasting the ninety-nine with the one) Jesus is relating to the outcasts of Jewish religious society. The "ninety-nine" are the Jews that are faithful, the "lost sheep" represents the individual "sinners" who repent when Jesus seeks them out. 

Jesus' evangelism during his ministry was directed towards the "lost sheep of Israel" (Mt 10:6, 15:24). It is this mission that is in view, not the larger Great Commission to the whole world (Mt 28:18-19).

166

LK 15:11 And He said, "A certain man had two sons; [12] and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' And he divided his wealth between them. [13] "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. [14] "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need. [15] "And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. [16] "And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. [17] "But when he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! [18] `I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; [19] "I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' [20] "And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. [21] "And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' [22] "But the father said to his slaves, `Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; [23] and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; [24] for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry. 

[25] "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be. [27] "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' [28] "But he became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him. [29] "But he answered and said to his father, `Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; [30] but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.' [31] "And he said to him, `My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. [32] `But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

This parable is one of the most moving and poignant in the gospels. It communicates the tragedy of human lostness and the heart of a Father who lets people choose to leave him even while he earnestly awaits their choice to return to him.

However, the setting of the parable and the conclusion of the parable point to its purpose: the loving rebuke of a father to the cold-hearted and resentful older brother who failed to rejoice in the return of the lost son. 

With this parable, Jesus expresses the sadness of the heart of God towards the religious leaders who had locked out the "sinners" in their midst from a relationship with God. Jesus made this very point to them in Mt 23:13, Lk 11:52.

183

LK 19:8 And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." [9] And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. [10] "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

The story of Zaccheus shows a sinner repenting of specific sinful behavior-- fraud. There is no record of Jesus commanding this specific repentance; it was spontaneous and acceptable to Jesus.

There is no specific mention of proclamation, faith,  repentance, baptism or following Jesus. Yet, on the basis of his response Jesus identifies Zaccheus with the language of the "found sheep" that he had come to seek and save. This doesn't de-emphasize or minimize any other element; it simply shows that the change of the heart is the most significant part of the story.

194

MT 22:1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying, [2] "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. [3] "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. [4] "Again he sent out other slaves saying, `Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' [5] "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, [6] and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. [7] "But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. [8] "Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. [9] `Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' [10] "And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. [11] "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, [12] and he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless. [13] "Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [14] "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Jesus again uses the motif of a feast to teach about the kingdom. Many are called to the "feast" (the kingdom), but few are chosen. Those who are chosen respond to the invitation and also are "dressed properly." This might be a reference to righteousness or forgiveness, ref. Gal 3:27, Rev 3:5, 7:13-14, 19:8, 14. However, the "wedding clothes" could suggest something far more simple: whether or not the person was in the spirit of the event to which he had been invited.

220

JN 15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, [27] and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit living in Christians is the bearing witness to the world.

241

MT 27:57 And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 

JN 19:38 And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. 

Here we see Joseph, one of those who was a disciple of Jesus in secret for fear of the Jews. 

The idea of a "secret disciple" seems to fly in the face of Mt 10:32-33, while the idea of a "rich disciple" seems to contradict Mt 19:23-24. Yet, his faithfulness here is unquestioned and commended. God is the final arbiter of one's faithfulness to God; taking certain passages apart from the larger context of the gospels can lead to wrong conclusions.

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JN 21:19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" [20] Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" [21] Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" [22] Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" 

Here Jesus re-extends the call to Peter for him to "follow me." The point is for Peter to not concern himself with John's relationship with Jesus, but with his own. 

"Follow me" is a clear reference to Peter's future martyrdom. Jesus foretold this type of death and compared John's possible future to it. 


Darkness and Light, Revealing
As Jesus is sometimes referred to as light (Jn 9:5), a common metaphor to refer to conversion is the idea of enlightenment. This consists of recognizing God's grace and truth as manifested in Jesus, and an openness with one's life concerning both good and bad deeds. Sometimes the Scriptures speak of the knowing certain spiritual truths. Behind this is the idea that certain actions or results confirm spiritual truths that might otherwise only be believed.

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2

JN 1:9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 

Not only was Jesus the true light, but that light could change every man.

2

JN 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. [18] No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

In an incredibly profound statement, Jesus and his way is contrasted with Moses and the law. Jesus' message was not about Law but about revealing God's grace and truth. 

9

LK 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: [68] "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, [69] And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant-- [70] As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-- [71] Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, and FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US; [72] To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, [73] The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, [74] To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, [75] In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. [76] "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; [77] To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, [78] Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, [79] TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Zacharias' song reflects Jesus bringing light to those in darkness. He comes from the house of David to bring salvation in remembrance of his covenant to Abraham. 

15

LK 2:26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. [27] And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, [28] then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, [29] "Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; [30] For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, [31] Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, [32] A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Thy people Israel."

LK 2:33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. [34] And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- [35] and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

Simeon's song reflects Jesus' bringing salvation to the Jews and light for the Jews and Gentiles alike. 

36

JN 3:19 "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. [20] "For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. [21] "But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

Here light is made to represent openness and truth; its antithesis is evil and secrecy. Part of conversion is coming into the light with one's deeds. This openness suggests not as much the confession of sin as much as the recognition of the good things done by sinful men as attributable to God. An obstacle to conversion is fear of this openness.

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MT 4:14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, [15] "THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI,
  BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES-- [16] "THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT,
  AND TO THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH,
  UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED."
  MT 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The proclamation of light to those in darkness was a part of the prophecies of Jesus. Yet, the message of this light was repentance.

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MT 16:17 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Peter's great confession was the direct result of the Father revealing Jesus' identity to him.

138

JN 8:31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; [32] and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Those who believe and put Jesus' words into practice come to a realization of the truth of his words and ultimately experience freedom.These, not just those who physically follow, are "true disciples."

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LK 10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."

LK 10:21 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You did hide these things from the wise and intelligent and did reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Your sight. [22] "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

The Father revealed Jesus to the "babes" who believed in him. 

187

LK 19:42 saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.

The Father hides things from the hard-hearted and unbelieving. 

191

JN 12:37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; [38] that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" 

The prophet Isaiah foresaw that believing would come through God's revealing.

216

JN 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The love of Christians is a powerful witness to all men. The response of this silent proclamation is unclear, except that people would recognize the apostle's connection to Jesus. The point here is not that the disciple's status or identity as disciples might be in question without this love, but that the love Christians have for each other serves to testify to their connection to Jesus.


Seeking and Entering the Kingdom
One particular trait about the kingdom is that is can be sought and entered. However, some passages that discuss this "entering of the kingdom" seem to relate to the present, but others seem to relate to the future. Those that relate to conversion are discussed below; those that relate to judgment are discussed under
Distinguishing Between Conversion and Judgment Standards in the Gospels.

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36

JN 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; [2] this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 

[3] Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." [4] Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" [5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] "Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born again.' [8] "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 

Jesus states that new birth-- one of water and spirit--  is required for entry into the kingdom. Since such a new birth is an event, it seems to be pointing towards conversion rather than something that might be a criteria at the time of judgment.

Jesus has one new birth in mind. Verse 3 makes this clear. Some have tried to make this into two "births" on the basis of verse 5. However, the Greek has one preposition governing both "water" and "spirit." This construction links the two together. 

In context, this is probably referring to the baptism of John. John's baptism was controversial, especially to the religious leaders (Jn 1:19-28).

This passage doesn't directly say anything about Christian conversion because it is talking about John's baptism. But Christian conversion is an extension of John's baptism in that it is also referred to as a "new birth" (ref. 1 Pet 1:3, 23, 1 Jn 2:29 et. al.). 

89,
90

MT 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.

MT 13:45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, [46] and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

The value of the kingdom is great, great enough for someone to sell all he has to get it.

There is a contrast here between the man in the field who finds a treasure somewhat haphazardly and the merchant who is diligently looking for a pearl. Though they came upon something of great value in different ways, they recognized that value and made an appropriate deal to ensure themselves of that thing of great value. 

Relating to Christian conversion, some might stumble upon the gospel, others might diligently search for its truth. Those who find it joyfully place it above all else in their lives. 

145, 
199

LK 11:52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."

MT 23:13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 

Continuing in his opposition to the religious leaders, he speaks against them for obscuring the ways of God to the people. Certainly some were entering but being hindered by the opposition and false teachings of the religious leaders. 

This text doesn't say anything directly about Christian conversion, but it does show that religious leaders can obscure God's ways from people.

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JN 10:1 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. [2] "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. [3] "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. [4] "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. [5] "And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." [6] This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

 JN 10:7 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. [9] "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

This passage uses the allegory of the shepherd and sheepfold. In this time and place, sheep pens had a single opening. Sometimes they had a gate and doorkeeper. In this case the shepherd is the one with legitimate access to the gate and sheep, as the sheep follow his voice only. 

Other times, there would be no gate to the sheep pen. Shepherds would then occupy this opening to keep sheep from leaving. Thus, Jesus positions himself as the shepherd of God's flock here. He is the legitimate shepherd and the gate itself. 

The gist of this passage is that other would-be "shepherds" were thieves and robbers, but the sheep-- God's people-- did not follow them. The sheep recognize the Shepherd's voice and follow him. 

The analogy of the sheep entering suggests that the subject is people entering God's fold. The contrast between the thieves and robbers entering illegally vs. entering through Jesus suggests that this is a call for the leaders to recognize Jesus' role as the Shepherd and Gate for all the sheep.

This text doesn't say much about Christian conversion, other than the obvious point that one must go "through Jesus" to become part of God's flock. This idea is echoed in Jn 14:6, men must go through Jesus to get to the Father.

168

LK 16:14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. [15] And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. [16] "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. [17] "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. [18] "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.

Jesus had just warned the listeners that they could not serve both God and money. Here he goes after their desire to be esteemed among each other instead of being esteemed by God. 

People are said to be "forcing their way into the kingdom." Obviously, Jesus is speaking of something in the present tense-- that people are hearing the gospel and "everyone" (hyperbole, no doubt) is "forcing" his way into the kingdom. 

The suggestion here is that people are attempting to associate themselves with Jesus but are simultaneously disregarding his teachings-- specifically, on the authority of the Law, matters of divorce and the proper use of material wealth. 

This doesn't speak much about Christian conversion in a positive sense, but does show that some may try to "force" their way into the kingdom while simultaneously disregarding the authoritative teachings of the word.

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MK 10:13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. [14] But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [15] "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." [16] And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.

Children are being brought to him, but being chased away by the apostles. Jesus' correction contains two interesting elements: 1) the kingdom belongs to children-- illustrating that children seem to be within God's grace apart from faith, and 2) that adults need to receive the kingdom (probably meaning the gospel of the kingdom) like a child. Many childlike attributers could be cited-- humility, joy, trust. These must accompany the receiving of the message for conversion to occur. 

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MT 21:31 "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you. [32] "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

"Doing the will of the Father" from faith is contrasted with past behavior and "religious standing" as the key to entering the kingdom. 

It is interesting that this is expressed in a future context-- "will get into..." Whether the church or heaven is in view isn't clear. Jesus is commending the faithful response of the tax-gatherers and harlots. 

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MK 12:28 And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" [29] Jesus answered, "The foremost is, `HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; [30] AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' [31] "The second is this, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." [32] And the scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; [33] AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

MK 12:34 And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.

The idea of a particular individual being "not far" from the kingdom suggests not only ideological proximity but also closeness to entrance. The valuing of love over sacrifices and obedient actions is thus a key element to entry into the kingdom.


New Birth, Repentance and Baptism
Repentance and baptism are often discussed in the context of proclamation and expected response in the gospels. This is a consistent message both before and after the cross.

Christian baptism is discussed in the context of new birth (e.g. Romans 6:4). It is therefore appropriate to discuss gospel references to each of these ideas together.

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2

JN 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, [13] who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus gives men who believe in him the right to be born of him. It is interesting that this belief does not itself constitute this new birth. 

23-25

LK 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, [2] in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. [3] And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; [4] as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
  "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
  `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
  MAKE His paths straight. [5] `EVERY RAVINE SHALL BE FILLED UP,
  AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL SHALL BE BROUGHT LOW;
  AND THE CROOKED SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT,
  AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; [6] AND ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.'"

[7] He therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] "Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. [9] "And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." [10] And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" [11] And he would answer and say to them, "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise." [12] And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." [14] And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."

John's baptism was "of" repentance (The Greek uses the genitive of metanoia). The baptism was towards (Greek eis, the English "for" is ambiguous) forgiveness of sins. 

Those seeking baptism were urged to bear good fruit (ref. Mt 7:15-19). Interestingly, John did not appeal to spiritual or external religious elements-- for example, more sacrifices, more prayer, more submission to leaders, having a "better heart" and the like. He defined repentance in very practical, lifestyle terms: kindness to the poor, honesty in business dealings, contentment in life. Repentance is practical and not merely religious.

26

MT 3:11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. [12] "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

LK 3:15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ, [16] John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. [17] "And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." [18] So with many other exhortations also he preached the gospel to the people.

John's ministry sheds light on the ministry of Jesus. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

There are some who would suggest that the "baptism of fire" has to do with purification. Others suggest that it relates to the baptism of the Holy Spirit on grammatical grounds. While tongues of fire accompanied the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3), this text does not meet the criteria for Sharp's rule which would identify them as one and the same (there is no single article governing both of the nouns).

In the gospels, fire is a common result of judgment and accompaniment of punishment (e.g. Mt 3:10, 3:12, 5:22, 7:19, 13:40, 18:8-9, 25:41, Lk 9:54, 12:49, Jn 15:6). In this context, judgment and punishment are especially in view and should be understood in this manner.

Thus, while John is seeking repentance and baptism, Jesus will bring about a change in dispensation: the era of the Spirit and the final determination of judgment.

30

JN 1:28 Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! [30] "This is He on behalf of whom I said, `After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' [31] "And I did not recognize Him, but in order that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water." [32] And John bore witness saying, "I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. [33] "And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, `He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.

John testifies that Jesus will bring about forgiveness of sins and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

36

JN 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." [4] Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" [5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] "Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born again.' [8] "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 

Jesus said several important things about being born again here. First, it is a prerequisite for seeing/entering the kingdom. Second, being "born again" is synonymous with being "born of the water and the spirit." Third, this is something that Jesus seems to have expected Nicodemus to have done. 

Some have suggests that birth of "water and spirit" refers to natural birth and spiritual birth. Both the grammar (Sharp's rule) and the context (Jesus' expectation of someone who had already been naturally born) make this incorrect. 

This new birth of water and spirit finds its logical and practical connection with the baptism of John (Jn 1:28)

46

MT 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Repentance was a key component and expectation of Jesus' proclamation.

59

JN 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. [25] "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. [26] "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; [27] and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [28] "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, [29] and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

JN 5:30 "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [31] "If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true. [32] "There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true. [33] "You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. [34] "But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. [35] "He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. [36] "But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. [37] "And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. [38] "And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. [39] "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; [40] and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life. [41] "I do not receive glory from men; [42] but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. [43] "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him. [44] "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? [45] "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. [46] "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. [47] "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"

In this section, new life is something spiritual that comes from those who are spiritually dead (except for 5:28-29, which is explicitly concerning the resurrection of the physically dead). 

Simply, this spiritual life comes to those who hear and believe the voice of the Son and come to him.

100

MK 6:12 And they went out and preached that men should repent.

Repentance was a key component and expectation of the apostle's proclamation.

256

MT 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. [19] "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

This statement serves as the conclusion of Matthew's gospel. Training (Greek matheteuo, train) and baptism are to be initial stages of evangelism to all nations. Subsequent ministry will focus on teaching obedience to all that Jesus has commanded. 

258

LK 24:46 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; [47] and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

This statement serves as the conclusion of Luke's gospel. Repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to all nations.

There is similar manuscript evidence for the NIV rendering ("repentance and forgiveness") and the NASB rendering ("repentance for forgiveness"). Either way, repentance is coupled with forgiveness. 

(Those who would mention the omission of baptism here and suggest that baptism has no place in forgiveness might want to consider that faith is not mentioned here either. This statement by Luke is not intended as a formula for conversion or concise expression of the gospel, but simply a summary of the end result of the ministry of the Messiah.)


Sowing and Reaping
The gospels use the idea of sowing and reaping as a metaphor for evangelism and conversion. By its nature, this is from the perspective of the Lord or the one doing outreach, not the perspective of the one being reached.

This metaphor is closely related to the ideas of preaching, hearing and believing, which will be seen more clearly in the comments below.

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Text

Comments

40,41

JN 4:36 "Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. [37] "For in this case the saying is true, `One sows, and another reaps.' [38] "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

JN 4:39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." [40] So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of His word; [42] and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world."

The context of this passage is the new faith of the Samaritans, precipitated by the visit of Jesus with the woman at the well. 

Sowing is seen as a necessary predecessor to reaping. The point of Jesus' marks is that the harvest of these Samaritans is the end result of much past spiritual labor by others. 

83

MT 13:18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. [19] "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. [20] "And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; [21] yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. [22] "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. [23] "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

MK 4:20 "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."

LK 8:15 "And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

The parable of the soils shows how the preached word bears fruit. Jesus illustrates four different "soil types." 

When sown to the disinterested person, there is no result at all. "Does not understand" doesn't have to do with intelligence or capacity but with spiritual interest and perception of the heart; the same term for understanding (Greek suneimi) is used in Mt 13:13,14,15-- and 13:23 to describing the fourth soil.

When sown to the shallow person, rapid but short-lived growth results. This person eventually falls away.

When sown to the preoccupied individual, limited growth results. This person's growth is stunted.

When the word is accompanied by acceptance, understanding, a good heart and perseverance, the desired result follows. The word truly affects this person.

What does this parable teach us about Christian conversion? First, the "won soul" comes from the word; the sower is merely an agent. Second, the growth depends upon the person who hears the word, not the one sowing. Third, it takes time to determine the ultimate response. Fourth, different people bear a different amount of "fruit." The fourth soil's "thirty, sixty or a hundredfold" are all accepted but obviously quite different in end result. (In context, the "fruit" that is borne is not future people converted but simply the spiritual health of individual.)

84

MK 4:26 And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; [27] and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows--how, he himself does not know. [28] "The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. [29] "But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

While the sower sows, the seed grows in its stages apart from his further effort or understanding. Yet, the harvest comes in due time.

Concerning Christian conversion, we may observe that the word produces the growth on its own, without the effort or understanding of the sower. Then when the crop permits, the harvest comes immediately. This suggests bringing people to the point of conversion as soon as their response permits.

98,
139

MT 9:35 And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. [36] And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. [38] "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

LK 10:2 And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 

A great harvest requires many workers. There also seems to be some connection between the needs of people (distressed, downcast, uncared for) and the size of the harvest.

219

JN 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 

Jesus' desire for the apostles was "remaining fruit." This seems to be in contrast to fruit that will not last, perhaps the old covenant of Moses. This would suggest the church itself is in view as the "fruit that will last," the end result of the apostle's ministry (ref. Mt 16:18)


Given by the Father
The gospels often tell us that God the Father plays an important role in people coming to Jesus. This is an especially frequent theme in the gospel of John, from which are all but one the of the below passages.

Section

Text

Comments

109,
110

JN 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. [36] "But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. [37] "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. [38] "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [39] "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. [40] "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

JN 6:41 The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." [42] And they were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, `I have come down out of heaven'?" [43] Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. [44] "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. [45] "It is written in the prophets, `AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. [46] "Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. [47] "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] "I am the bread of life. [49] "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. [50] "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. [51] "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."

JN 6:60 Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" [61] But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble? [62] "What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before? [63] "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. [64] "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. [65] And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."

JN 6:66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. [67] Jesus said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" [68] Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. [69] "And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." 

In a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews, we learn that Jesus viewed those who believed in him as having been given to him by the Father. In light of Jn 17:6, 17:24, we ought to view this as a matter of stewardship on Jesus' part. 

But we also should consider just how the Father might "give" people to Jesus. 6:34 illustrates how these people are given to Jesus: people behold the Son and believe in him and be raised at the last day. They are "given" to Jesus because this is the gracious will of the Father. 

Now to the question of "drawing." Questioned by those who did not believe, he stated that unless the Father "draws" a person, no one can come to Jesus. The Greek term for "draws" is elkuso, and is usually used to describe forcible dragging (e.g. Jn 21:6, 21:11, Ac 16:19, 21:30, Jas 2:6). It is also used once to describe Peter drawing his sword (Jn 18:10). 

John uses the term two other times-- In Jn 12:32, Jesus says his death would draw all men to himself. This can hardly mean that all men will be converted simply because of the cross. Jesus' prophecy seems fulfilled in that the most prominent fact about Christianity is the cross. 

But what of "drawing" in Jn 6:44? It seems that the Father is actively involved in individual men coming to faith in Jesus, and without this involvement men cannot come to Jesus.

Does this mean that men do not have a free choice? No. God's drawing gives man the choice to learn from the Father and come to Jesus. 

Does this mean that God decides who will have the opportunity to be saved? Does he create some that will have no opportunity to come to Jesus? If twisted, this text might suggest such an idea. But in context God does his drawing through the Scriptures (6:45). 

Concerning Christian evangelism, we should observe that in Christ the Father has been working towards the salvation of every man. However, only some heed that call. Like Jesus, we need not put the onus of another's faith upon ourselves, but simply recognize we can only receive from the Father those who believe from our message. While persuasion might be necessary at times, those who have been favorably disposed towards the call of God are the ones who will heed the message.

138

JN 8:43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.

JN 8:47 "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

Those who are "of God" hear and understand God's word. The context of this discussion is the Jews claiming to be descendants of Abraham; Jesus' point is if they were true heirs, they would hear and understand the word. 

160

JN 10:26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. [27] "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; [28] and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. [29] "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] "I and the Father are one."

Those who are "Jesus' sheep" believe his word and follow him. The Father has given these sheep to Jesus.

205

MK 13:20 "And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days. [21] "And then if anyone says to you, `Behold, here is the Christ'; or, `Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; [22] for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray. 

Jesus refers to the "elect" (who might otherwise be known as his "sheep"). He states the coming false Christs and false prophets will be so believable that they might persuade even the faithful.

224

JN 17:6 "I manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 

[24] "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which you have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Three times in the prayer of John 17, Jesus identifies the eleven as having been given to him by the Father. This suggests the idea of stewardship, that the Father entrusted the eleven to Jesus. Accordingly, Jesus ministered to those who had been entrusted to him.


Distinguishing Between Conversion and Judgment Standards in the Gospels
While the gospels sometimes speak of elements surrounding the topic of  proclamation and conversion, they also speak of judgment standards. In some passages, it is difficult to distinguish between those related to conversion from those related to judgment. The deciding factor about whether a passage belongs to the conversion event or the judgment event are usually evident from the context.

The following passages seem to discuss topics relevant to conversion and judgment, but they are more closely related to final judgment. They illustrate that there is more to salvation than the conversion event.

 

Section

Text

Comments

67

MT 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. [18] "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. [19] "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The point of this passage seems to be the elevation of the commands of the Law and a criticism of the scribes' and Pharisees' apparent disregard for them. (The scribes and Pharisees are frequent antagonists of Jesus and a prominent bad example throughout the gospel of Matthew, ref. Mt 7:29, 23:2ff.)

Since the law was fulfilled/abolished at the cross (Col 2:14, Mt 27:51), Jesus seems be talking about the period of time during his ministry before the cross. In this case, Jesus upholds the standard of the law during his earthly ministry.

He specifically states that the commands will not pass away until the passing away of heaven and earth-- or until "all is accomplished."  If Jesus is speaking of the cross as a point where "all is accomplished," this would fit with the idea that Jesus is addressing the period of time during his earthly ministry. 

Since this is discussing the period of time prior to the cross, this text does not address the question of Christian conversion in the church age. 

70,
147

MT 6:31 "Do not be anxious then, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `With what shall we clothe ourselves?' [32] "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. [33] "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. [34] "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

LK 12:29 "And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. [30] "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. [31] "But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. [32] "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. [33] "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. [34] "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

Here "seeking the kingdom" relates to spiritual priorities in life. Instead of pre-occupation with the material needs of life, Jesus wants his followers to have peace and security that God will provide for them.

This seems to have little direct relevance to the question of Christian conversion. Jesus isn't urging people to make "listening to the gospel" the greatest priority; after all, they are already following him and listening to him. 

This text cannot be correctly applied to the idea of attending all of the church services, the context has nothing to do with this. But it does commend the idea of not letting the work of life get in the way of one's spiritual focus. That is the point of the admonition.

71

MT 7:13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. [14] "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

MT 7:15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? [17] "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. [19] "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] "So then, you will know them by their fruits. [21] "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. [22] "Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' [23] "And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

Jesus is speaking of a future time when people might enter the kingdom. The wide gate and broad road seems to be those who say "Lord, Lord" but neglect the will of the Father, while the narrow gate and way seems to be those who do the will of the Father. The issue is talk vs. action.

Jesus warns of false prophets because spiritual leaders tell people which "way" to go. Jesus urges that the fruit of would-be leader's lives must be weighed before they are given influence in one's life. Interestingly, the fruit to consider is not ministry-related (prophesying, casting out of demons, performing of miracles) but personal righteousness that is the result of one's inner convictions. 

Jesus also warns that mere confession of him-- even accompanied by miraculous signs-- without obedience to the will of God will not be sufficient for entering the kingdom in the future. This whole idea of the will of God merits further examination on its own.

With the images of "trees thrown into the fire" and lawless ones being cast away from Jesus "on that day," this text relates more to future judgment than immediate conversion. In fact, it cautions that we should beware of focusing on "conversion" (confessing "Lord, Lord" is a key element of conversion) apart from a narrow-road lifestyle that bears the good fruit of doing God's will.

99

MT 10:22 "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 

Perseverance to the end is necessary for salvation. By its very nature, this relates to judgment and not to a conversion event.

99, 
146

MT 10:32 "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. [33] "But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

LK 12:8 "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God; [9] but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. 

Confessing or denying Jesus before men will have a corresponding effect at judgment.

120

MT 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. [25] "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. [26] "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? [27] "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. [28] "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Following Peter's confession, commendation and rebuke of Jesus concerning the cross, Jesus speaks of several generalities. 

First, those who wish to follow him must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow. If the Master is headed to a cross, so are the followers. 

For all, there is a spiritual truth: those who wish to save their lives will lose them, those who lose their lives for his sake shall find them. Even gaining the world is no profit if the soul is lost. 

Consistent with the message of the Old Testament, men will be rewarded according to their deeds. Jesus doesn't expect perfection, but he expects his followers to "lose their lives" for him. This need not mean martyrdom (though it could); in context it is about Peter renouncing his own ambitions and ideas about what the Messiahship of Jesus meant.

127

MT 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" [2] And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, [3] and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

The question of the greatness of the disciples-- probably meaning the Twelve here-- provides the context. 

We might observe that the disciples were already "converted" to Jesus, yet he tells them of another "conversion" (Greek strepho, turn) that is necessary for their ultimate salvation.

Thus, this saying does not appear to be addressing initial conversion but the necessary growth in humility for those considering who among them is the greatest. 

128

MK 9:38 John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us." [39] But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. [40] "For he who is not against us is for us. [41] "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. 

[42] "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. [43] "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [44] [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] [45] "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell, [46] [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] [47] "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, [48] where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. [49] "For everyone will be salted with fire. [50] "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Confronted with the unknown exorcist, Jesus urged the apostles to show kindness toward him. Even small acts of righteousness have reward. Acts of kindness towards any of his followers have a reward. 

On the other hand, causing anyone to stumble (Greek skandalizo, causing offense) is literally playing with fire. Similarly, individuals should avoid stumbling as well. Avoiding stumbling, even at high cost, is worth that cost compared to hell. Stumbling can cause one to go to hell at the judgment.

"Losing one's saltiness" appears to be an irrevocable condition, suggesting that the spiritual distinctiveness attained through hardship should not be surrendered.

141

LK 10:25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" [26] And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" [27] And he answered and said, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." [28] And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS, AND YOU WILL LIVE."

Jesus states that following the greatest commands of the Law will lead to life. 

Paul would later state in Gal 3:21-22 that the law could not give life; not due to a failure in the law but due to the failure of mankind being able to keep it. As Jesus lived under the law, his remarks should be understood in this regard.

143

LK 11:4 `And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

Forgiveness of others plays a part in being forgiven by God and needs to be a regular part of the life of a Christian.

162

LK 13:23 And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, [24] "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. [25] "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, `Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, `I do not know where you are from.' [26] "Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; [27] and He will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' [28] "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out. [29] "And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. [30] "And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last."

This text has some verbal parallels with Mt 7:13-23, though Luke places it much later in Jesus' ministry than Matthew's account. The question posed suggests that Jesus regularly taught the "narrow road" of salvation. 

Jesus' answer does not focus on methodology of conversion but upon individual effort to "enter through the narrow door." In context, this narrow door is the entrance to heaven itself at the time of judgment. After this time, the "door is shut" and people on the other side plead in futility for entry.

Many will seek but only a few will actually enter. The key factor in their rejection is seen in Jesus' remark, "I do not know where you are from." This would seem to be pointing to the idea that religious devotion and witness of  Jesus' ministry have no value on the day of judgment if one is not known by Jesus.

This text has little to offer concerning details of Christian conversion (only that one must be known by Jesus in the end), but it offers a sober warning that "many will try" to get into heaven and not make it. 

177,
178

MT 19:16 And behold, one came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" [17] And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." [18] He said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; [19] HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." [20] The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" [21] Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." [22] But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

MT 19:23 And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. [24] "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [25] And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" [26] And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." [27] Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" [28] And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [29] "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life. [30] "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. 

The question posed by the man is about eternal life-- going to heaven. The answer from Jesus is in a Jewish context-- obeying the law.

Jesus seems to suggest that if one want to enter life, the place to start is keeping the commandments. This makes sense in a Jewish context, and fits well with other similar passages. 

The man's reply about what is still lacking raising an interesting point-- was anything still lacking? Was this man heaven-bound as he spoke? 

We know that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, thus the commandments are not cast aside until the cross (Mt 5:17-19). Yet, the commandments cannot bring life (Romans 3:20), only Jesus could do that. 

Being given a chance to follow Jesus and believe in him  (the true and long-term answer to his question), he chose his possessions instead. Jesus uses the response to teach a lesson: It is hard (though not impossible, for all things are possible with God) for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. With this man as the example, it seems that one's riches often have a way of speaking more persuasively than God. 

Then and now, material wealth is considered by some to be an indication of God's favor. These things are blessings, but they cannot be put ahead of the One who provides them.

This text is primarily about judgment and heaven; that was the man's initial question and the end result of the discussion as well. However, the point about whether one is controlled by riches or the call of God relates to all of life, including conversion. 

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MT 22:1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying, [2] "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. [3] "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. [4] "Again he sent out other slaves saying, `Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' [5] "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, [6] and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. [7] "But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. 

[8] "Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. [9] `Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' [10] "And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. [11] "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, [12] and he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless. [13] "Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [14] "For many are called, but few are chosen."

The point of this parable is that some who have been invited to the feast refuse the invitation and even kill the messengers. The king then destroys those who rejected the invitation and killed his messengers, and extends his invitation to others. 

This seems to be a clear reference to the Jews, who had murdered the prophets announcing the way of God (Mt 23:37). Jesus is announcing that the city of those who rejected the invitation and murdered the servants will be destroyed, and that the invitation will be extended to others (namely the Gentiles, ref. Mt 21:43). This is a prominent theme in Matthew.

The second half of the parable is about those who come from the subsequent invitation. The feast may be a picture of the church or perhaps the queue for judgment. Here people-- both the good and the bad-- have received and accepted the invitation. 

But at the feast, what matters is suitability for the feast, not whether one was good or bad at the time of calling. "Properly dressed" for the feast shows that even though the invitation was gracious, there are still standards and expectations at the banquet. What these might be aren't exactly clear, but the behavior and attitude appropriate for the occasion are probably in view.
 



7. Disciples, Followers and Believers
The term "disciple" was used often in the gospels, occasionally in Acts, and never again in the New Testament, as other terms came to be used to describe followers of Jesus during the church age. Here we will examine the components of discipleship in the ministry of Jesus and how discipleship was taught in the church age.

Two Calls in the Ministry of Jesus
Consider the following passage from the beginning of Jesus' ministry:

And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men (Mark 1:14-17)."

Here we see the distinct presence of two calls in the ministry of Jesus: the people of Galilee were told to "repent and believe in the gospel," but the fishermen were called to follow and be trained to "fish for men." Two different groups, two different messages, two different expectations.

Often, these two calls are merged together, but it seems clear from this passage and others throughout the gospels that these two distinct and different calls existed in the ministry of Jesus. Recognizing this distinction will help us understand both more clearly. Let us first examine the call of "followship" in the gospels, and afterwards the call of the gospel.

Disciple = Follower
The Greek term maqhth;" (mathetes, meaning "pupil, disciple") and its cognates are used 237 times in the gospels. The vast majority—220 instances— are used to describe Jesus' disciples. A verb cognate of "mathetes," maqhteuvw ("matheteuo", make a disciple) is used to refer to the making or training of disciples. This term is used rarely in the New Testament but does appear in one of the more well-known passages on the topic, Matthew 28:18-20.

In the gospels, the term "disciple" is almost always used to refer specifically to the twelve apostles. This is especially seen in Jesus sending out "The Twelve" in the limited commission:

And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. … And it came about that when Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities (Matthew 10:1, 11:1).

The Greek New Testament has two other terms that are used to describe the idea of "following after" Jesus, these are ajkolouqevw (akoloutheo, a verb meaning "come after, accompany, follow as a disciple") and ojpivsw (opiso, an adverb meaning "behind, after"). Sometimes only akoulotheo is used, other times only opiso. Sometimes these are used together:

And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow (opiso) Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And they immediately left the nets and followed (akoloutheo) Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow (opiso) Him (Mark 1:16-20).

In fact, the terms "mathetes," "opiso" and "akoulotheo" are used together in the familiar passage:

And He summoned the multitude with His disciples (mathetes), and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after (opiso … akoulotheo) Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow (akoulotheo) Me (Mark 8:34).

More than Twelve Followers
While usually referring to the Twelve, the term "disciple" also is used to refer to other disciples who are not numbered among the Twelve. There are many passages that indicate that there was a larger group of disciples than just the Twelve, including:

And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles (Luke 6:13).

When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee (John 4:1-3).

There were at least seventy men in this group (Lk 10:1), including Joseph of Aramathea (Jn 19:38) and those who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13ff). The rich young man (Mt 19:21) declined the offer to follow Jesus. Some took up this challenge on their own, including the healed blind men (Mt 20:34), while others sought to do likewise but were met with warnings (Mt 8:19-22, Lk 9:57-61, 14:25ff). The women who followed Jesus from Galilee (Mt 27:55) were probably the ones spoken of in the upper room (Ac 1:14).

When the eleven apostles sought to replace Judas they proposed two men that were apparently part of this larger group of disciples (Ac 1:21ff).

Because of the lack of precision of the term "disciple" in the gospels, we might be well advised to think "followers" when discussing those called were disciples but also actually followed Jesus physically.

Followship Was For Leadership
Jesus called men to accompany him for the express purpose of training them to carry out his mission of reaching the world with the gospel.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him (Mark 1:16-18).

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach (Mark 3:13-14).

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables… With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything (Mark 4:10-11, 4:33-34).

And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Matthew 9:36-38)."

And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. … These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 10:1, 10:5-7).'"

And ordering the multitudes to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes (Matthew 14:19).

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
He said to him, "Tend My lambs (John 21:15)."

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:45-48)."

As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (John 17:18).

These passages relate to the Twelve and clearly illustrate the "big picture" of Jesus' purpose is calling and training them—the call to follow Jesus was a call to leadership.

Faith and Obedience in the Ministry of Jesus
Faith and obedience are regular themes in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Typically, the object of faith in the gospels is Jesus, his identity as the Messiah, and his message; the object of obedience is the command of Jesus through the gospel:

And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:14-15)."

Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21).

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:10-12)."

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

Believing and Obeying Was For Salvation
Building on the beginning of Jesus' ministry as recorded in Mark, a look at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) indicates the "gospel of the kingdom," typical material that Jesus taught as he preached in Galilee and Judea. Consider the following passages mentioning a reward or consequence:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15).

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

According to these and other passages, the "gospel of the kingdom" might be summarized in the following categories:

There are no hints here of one earning salvation nor of flawless perfection in performance. Nor should we attempt to use these teachings to delineate some criteria for salvation. These passages indicate that Jesus' message to the multitudes was centered around salvation and it was not about "following him as a disciple." Salvation came by a sincere, believing and obedient response to the word of the gospel and continued faithfulness afterwards. Jesus referred to this as "true discipleship:"

Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32)."

Throughout Jesus' ministry, he sometimes indicated that certain individuals were saved. Examining these instances elaborates on the teachings discussed above.

For example, Jesus said the faithful apostles were saved (Mt 19:28, cf. Jn 17:2, 17:12). Jesus said Zacchaeus was saved (Lk 19:9), he also forgave the sins of some individuals (e.g. paralytic in Mt 9:2, sinful woman in Lk 7:48). Lastly, Jesus also made a promise about Paradise to the thief on the cross (Lk 23:43). These do not relate to "following Jesus as a disciple" but to faith and repentance (in the cases of Zacchaeus, the sinful woman and the thief) and pure grace (the faith of those carrying him, in the case of the paralytic).

Except in the case of the apostles, there is no connection between "followship" and salvation; followship was not in view in the pronouncement of forgiveness or salvation.

Followship and "Taking up the Cross"
The apostles are often considered "prototypical" Christians, as though all Christians needed to follow in their footsteps. The apostles certainly had things to their credit, having "left everything to follow" Jesus (Mt 19:28). But there is another side to the story of the apostles, and we must consider it if we are to understand their place, followship and "true discipleship." Let us consider the most significant aspects of this discussion: the "taking up of one’s cross" (the ultimate aspect of followship), and then apostolic faith.

Here is the definitive "taking up the cross" passage from each of the synoptic gospels in parallel form:

Matthew 16:16- 28

Mark 8:27-9:1

Luke 9:18-27

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 

And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 

And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." 

And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" 

And they told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets."

And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" 

Peter answered and said to Him, "Thou art the Christ." 

And it came about that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the multitudes say that I am?" 

And they answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." 

And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 

And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." 

And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

 

 

Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly.

But He warned them, and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." 

And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 

But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 

And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 

But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 

 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

 

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS."

 

 

"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

And He was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."


This matter of "taking up one’s cross" runs head-on into the Messianic expectations of the period, as Jesus’ remarks are given in the context of a discussion of his destiny and their expectations. Clearly the masses expected a king (ref. John 6:15, 18:37) to expel the Romans. Consider the words of F.F. Bruce regarding Messianic expectations in the first century:

No single form of messianic expectation was cherished by Jesus' contemporaries, but the hope of a military Messiah predominated. (F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, Doubleday-Galilee, New York, NY, 1980. p. 133)

At the time, however, when to most people 'Messiah' was the Davidic warrior who would lead his people to victory over their Gentile overlords, it was natural that Jesus should warn Peter and the other apostles not to repeat in public what they had said about his being the Messiah. But he said more than that: according to Mark, it was from now on that he began to tell his disciples that, far from attacking and overthrowing the power of Rome, he himself would be repudiated and put to death. When Peter told him to stop talking like that, he insisted that this was the path of God's will for him, and added that those who were still determined to follow him must realize clearly what lay ahead for their leader, so that they might count the cost for themselves and be prepared one day to carry a cross to the place of execution as he was prepared to carry his (F. F. Bruce, ibid, p. 186-187).

There is ample evidence that the apostles were like their contemporaries concerning Messianic expectations, for they persisted in not understanding the place of the cross in the life of the Messiah:

And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He was unwilling for anyone to know about it. For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him (Mark 9:30-32).

But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. … And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory (Luke 24:21, 25-26)?"

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)?"

Jesus’ remarks about his followers "carrying their cross" must be understood in this context of popular but erroneous Messianic expectations in their time. Jesus knew the cross and not the throne was in his immediate future, and his disciples needed to have the right expectations about both the Messiah and themselves. The admonition to "carry their own cross" was to emphasize the true direction of the Messianic ministry in contrast to their wrong ideas. Consider Colin Brown’s comments:

He (Jesus) would realize that only the Romans had the power of capital punishment and that the form of the capital punishment was crucifixion. This was something that he lived with. He would know also of the practice of the condemned man bearing the patibulum. Whatever fate, therefore, awaited him would also await those who followed him.

The sayings about bearing the cross form part of warning the disciples to count the cost (see the context of Matt. 10:38 and Lk. 14:27). This is coupled with the warning that a servant is not above his master (Matt. 10:24, cf. Lk. 6:40, Jn. 13:16, 15:20). Moreover, the saying common to all three Synoptic Gospels occurs in the context of Jesus' acknowledgement of Peter's confession of him as the Christ. For Jesus the inevitable implication of being the Christ is suffering, death and the opposition of men. Inevitably, therefore, those who associate with him as the Christ are liable to the same fate (Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975. Volume I, pp. 403-404).

This "cross-bearing" certainly wasn’t a "criterion to be met" before the apostles started following Jesus (the apostles had already been following Jesus for several years at this point); these statements were primarily about Jesus.

Further, the apostles themselves did not meet this "criteria" at the time of their calling nor at various times in their following of Jesus. In fact, they abandoned Jesus at the time of testing, despite assurances that they would not. In the Garden of Gethsemane, followship turned to abandonment; in the court of the high priest confession turned to denial. If the Eleven were to be saved, it couldn't be by "taking up their cross" and faithfully following Jesus to his cross, because they didn’t do it! But when these passages are understood in the light of explaining Jesus' own destiny to those with various different Messianic expectations, they make perfect sense.

Followship and Faith
Another significant failing of the disciples is their frequent lack of faith. In one case, the faith of a centurion is praised and immediately afterwards the lack of faith of the disciples is revealed (Mt 8:5-10, 23-27). This persistent issue with the disciples' faith is one of the prominent themes of the gospels (e.g. Mt 14:31, 16:8, 21:21, 28:16, Lk 24:25).

The point here is not to criticize the disciples, but to help us understand the important differences between followship and faith; "taking up the cross" and true discipleship. Hebrews 11:1 says: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Followship had very little to do with faith—faith in what is seen is not faith! Jesus' remark to Thomas at the apex of the gospel of John speaks volumes in this regard:

Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed (John 20:29)."

The message of the gospels does not lift up followship but faith, and the godliness that would result from it. In the case of the apostles, following the physical Jesus was a call that led to faith in Jesus (Jn 2:11, 16:31), but it was primarily a means of training to minister. Comparing faith in Jesus and followship of Jesus, faith was clearly the greater of the two.

Discipleship in the Early Church
Per their training and commission from Jesus, the apostles were charged with taking the gospel to all nations:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20)."

Because English does not adequately translate the Greek verb "matheteuo" (meaning to train or teach), proper English translations must render the passage "make disciples." Yet a better translation would be "teach the nations" or "disciple the nations." There are no "disciples" (noun) in this passage.

Language difficulties aside, Jesus clearly wanted the Eleven to win converts from the Jews and Gentiles alike, to baptize them and teach obedience to his commands. This is exactly what the early church did. How they did it, how they viewed it and how they talked about it sheds great light on the shifting concepts of discipleship in the church age.

Disciple = Believer!
The first time the members of the early church are referred to collectively, they are referred to as "believers."

And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common (Acts 2:44).

This pattern continues throughout the earliest days of the church, as is seen in these "summary passages" from the first few chapters of Acts:

But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand (Acts 4:4).

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them (Acts 4:32).

And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their
number (Acts 5:14).

What happened to the "disciples" and the call to followship? The first time the term "disciple" appears in Acts is Acts 6:1, in reference to the number of disciples increasing at the time of the controversy of the Greek widows. The "believers" were the "disciples!" Let's get a count of the various terms applied to Christians up until Acts 6:1:
 

Church, Congregation, Added, Together (7)

2:41, 2:47, 4:23, 4:31, 4:32, 5:11, 5:14

Believers (4)

2:44, 4:4, 4:32, 5:14

The change in terminology makes a lot of sense, since there was no physical Jesus to physically follow after Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven. This change reflects the change in the concept of discipleship in the church age compared to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Discipleship shifted from the "follow me" call in Jesus' earthly ministry to 1) believing the message about Jesus as the Christ (Ac 2:38, 5:42, 8:12, 9:22) and 2) becoming a part of the church through baptism (Ac 2:41).

Faith and Obedience Were the Expected Responses to the Gospel
The expected responses to the gospel were faith and obedience, specifically repentance and baptism. To the hearers on the day of Pentecost, the expectation of the apostolic message was "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). These became known as "believers" (Acts 2:44) who had been "added to their number" (Acts 2:41, 47).

The next few times respondents to the gospel message are discussed, they are referred to by their believing response to the gospel of the Messiahship of Jesus and being added to the church, as we saw above. As the church pushes on its missionary efforts to other parts of the world, these same ideas keep appearing again and again:

New Names for "Disciples" in the Church Age
Earlier, a chart was presented that discussed the various terms that were used to refer to followers in the first few chapters of Acts. Let us consider the frequency with which certain terms were used in the entire New Testament:
 

NT Books

Pct of NT

faith-
related

brother/
family related

disciple

church-
member related

saint

Gospels

47%

153

107

237

3

19

Acts

13%

60

57

29

23

21

Paul's letters

24%

201

133

0

62

11

Remainder of NT

16%

83

58

0

26

21

Total

100%

496

355

266

114

72

Another approach might be to consider the various means of address in the epistles, since it is easy to skim the introductions of the letters and see how the churches were addressed in context.
 

Church (7)
 
 

Fellow (1)

1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Philemon 1:1-2, Revelation 1:4

Philemon 1:1-2

Faithful (4),

Child in the Faith (3)

Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2, 2 Peter 1:1

1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4

Saints (5)

Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2

Called/Chosen (4)

Romans 1:7, 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 John 1:1-2, Jude 1:1

Brothers (2)

Colossians 1:2, Philemon 1:1-2

Loved by God (2)

Romans 1:7, Jude 1:1

Of course, there are limitations to the conclusions one could draw from these types of evidence, but the trend to move towards "believer" terminology and away from "disciple" terminology is still overwhelmingly clear.

The introduction to Romans is especially interesting because it ties together many of these concepts:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7)

Followship for Training for New Converts and Leadership
The early church practiced some aspect of "followship" for leaders and new converts, likely modeled after the ministry of Jesus. We see instances where potential converts and young Christians were in a close band following leaders in a similar manner as the apostles followed Jesus:

And even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip; and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed (Acts 8:13).

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark (Acts 12:25).

And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:42).

But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:34).

And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus; and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas (Acts 20:4-5).

While we see these examples for young Christians and future leaders, it is also evident that the entire church could not and did not follow its leaders in the same way. The church was simply "the assembly," submitting to its leaders but also ministering to its own needs. 

The Distinction between the Call of Discipleship and the Call of Salvation, and Implications for the Church Age
The proclamation and expectation of the gospel changed from the days of the earthly ministry of Jesus to the church age. During Jesus' earthly ministry, he called disciples to follow him as a means to equip them for meeting the needs of others. He also taught about salvation through belief and obedience to his commands.

The early church proclaimed the gospel of Jesus being the Christ. The expectation of the gospel was belief, obedience (namely, repentance and baptism) and becoming a member of the church. The concept of "discipleship" in the sense of physically following Jesus was completely obsolete, since Jesus had ascended into heaven and could no longer be "followed." Yet, those believing in Jesus as the Christ, obeying the gospel and becoming members of the church were still known as "disciples," just as the followers of Jesus during his earthly ministry were known.

Drawing attention to the concept of faith in the church age is not to say that the early church somehow practiced a lesser "commitment" to Jesus than those followers during his earthly ministry. The book of Acts readily testifies to their tremendous commitment. But this commitment was based upon faith.

Nor is the call to faith an attempt to minimize the concepts of repentance and baptism, which clearly have their place. The point is that faith is the key and foundation to the rest.

People with real faith live according to their beliefs, since a lifestyle in harmony with those beliefs is the only logical alternative. The heroes of the first century, as in all times, endured hardship and persevered because of the truth and gravity of what they believed in:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval (Hebrews 11:1-2).

We should not let the distortions of modern-day "easy believism" drive us to an equally distorted "discipleship" that burdens the gospel and obliterates faith, as though there were an earthly Master to follow, or that rigorous commitment is the cardinal Christian virtue. We should pursue the sincere faith as seen in the early church, in the hopes that we may reap the blessing Jesus himself promised: "Blessed are they did not see and yet believed (John 20:29)." May he find this faith when he returns.


8. The Message
One of the most clear-cut aspects of the topic of proclamation and response is the fundamental Christian truth: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He was crucified, buried and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures, for the salvation of mankind. This is affirmed as the core of the gospel in several explanations and discussions.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42)
But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:5)
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, [2] by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Typically, there was also mention of the certainty of future judgment and that salvation is only possibly through Jesus. The apostles backed up their message with reference to the fact that Jesus himself appointed them to preach the gospel to the world.

The Message was Target-Sensitive
The gospel proclamation had certain common elements, but was usually augmented to address additional topics depending upon the audience. To the Jews, it might include a discussion of how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament definition of Messiah, especially the rejection, death and restoration of the Christ. There might also be a discussion of various miracles and signs, or perhaps a discussion of "royal" themes-- the rise of the Kingdom of God and Jesus as the heir to David's throne.

To the Gentiles, there was an additional emphasis on the "newness" of Christianity compared to Judaism-- that Christ has superceded the Jewish law and now the Gentiles are included in God's plan. There was also talk of God's sovereignty over creation and his appointment of Jesus as Lord. There might also be talk of the excellency of God's ways compared to other belief systems.

The Message Produced Faith
Since faith was the key to conversion and subsequent faithful living, it was the primary objective of evangelism:

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, [26] but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- [27] to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

Faith was also seen as something that was enabled by God himself:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)

The Call for Response
The basic message of the gospel included instructions for those accepting and believing the message.

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" [38] And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." [40] And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:37-40)

While the call came from human lips, it was in fact God's call to each individual person. It contained specific direction concerning what the believing hearers ought to do. By following the terms of the call, the hearers could have the salvation God was offering.


9. The Response
It is intuitively obvious that the response to the gospel follows from the proclamation of the gospel.  One interesting observation is that there are two elements of the response. These might be described as the "immediate response" and the "subsequent response." People who accepted the gospel were first converted, and then lived according to that faith. This practice of the early church is seen in the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28:18-19, as it speaks of the process of discipling the nations-- first "baptizing them" and then "teaching them to obey."

Faith
The starting point for any response to the gospel is acceptance of the message. Belief was so foundational that early Christians were known by their belief in Jesus and the gospel.

And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common. (Acts 2:44)
But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. (Acts 4:32)

This trait has sometimes led people to conclude that faith was all that mattered. However, the Scriptures do not support the idea that "belief alone" constituted conversion in the early church. While faith was foundational, the record of Scripture shows that their conversion experiences consisted of more than faith or simple mental assent.

Nevertheless, no one should over-react to the "faith only" (mental assent) distortion with an opposite distortion that overemphasizes other factors, nor should we minimize the place of faith in the conversion process. In the early church, belief assured that all other elements would follow. Without belief, nothing else mattered. Faith is truly the starting point in the process.

Any further response to the gospel is only relevant to those who accept or believe the proclamation:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, [13] who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12).
And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, [30] and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" [31] And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. [33] And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. [34] And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:29-34)

The Immediate Response: Repentance and Baptism
The expected immediate response of the gospel proclamation was repentance and baptism. This is specified in the first proclamation of the gospel in Acts 2:

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." (Acts 2:38-39)

Repentance
At conversion, repentance was not of any particular "sins" as much as it was a turning towards Jesus and making him "Lord" or master (ref. Romans 10:9 et. al.). It was a renouncing of all other ways in favor of His way and follows as a logical response to believing the truth of the gospel-- if something is true, it must be reckoned with and acted upon.

This is not to say that repentance of individual, specific sins didn't occur. But what was far more important was a change in attitude concerning sin; indeed, the Greek term for repentance (metanoia) literally means "change of mind." Conversion was thus reckoned as a "death to sin."

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? [2] May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

The Scriptures indicate that repentance from sin was continually necessary, as an implication of this initial death to sin.  For example, the Christians in Colosse were urged to put certain sins to death, even though they had already been converted. Similarly, the Ephesians repented of practices associated with magic after their conversion:

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. [6] For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, [7] and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8)
Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. [19] And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:18-19)
This shows that repenting of specific sins was not a single action at the time of conversion. Rather, conversion was the beginning of the process by which Christians grew to become more holy (or set apart) for God's purposes:
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)
But you did not learn Christ in this way, [21] if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, [22] that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, [23] and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, [24] and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

There was a tension in the early church between the need to renounce sin and the need to understand the human proclivity for sin. Repentance doesn't demand flawless perfection, it means a change in attitude:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:5-10)

Baptism
Baptism was the only truly visible part of the initial response. It was not separated from the conversion process, it was an integral part of it. Through baptism, the candidate shared in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, had his sins forgiven or "washed away," and received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spririt. This was reckoned as the point in time when people were saved:

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" [38] And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." [40] And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" [41] So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:36-41)
But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike (Acts 8:12).
And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. (Acts 18:8)
And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name. (Acts 22:16)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? [2] May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? [3] Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  (Romans 6:1-4)
And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)

This was also known as "new birth" or being "born again" (1 Peter 1:3, 1:23, 1 John 2:21, 3:9 et. al.). By the faithful response of repentance and baptism, the convert was also added to the church (Acts 2:41).

The Subsequent Response: Learning and Obeying
Beyond the immediate response to the gospel, the early Christians changed their outlook and lifestyle based upon the truth of the gospel. This is nicely summarized in the Great Commission "... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (Matthew 28:19).

This subsequent response of the gospel follows logically from the immediate response. If one believes Jesus is the Son of God and repents and is baptized in His name, the next logical step is learning and following what He taught. This pattern of learning and obeying is seen in the early church:

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.(Acts 2:42)
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, [3] being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.(Ephesians 4:1-3)
Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, [3] it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; [4] so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.(Luke 1:1-4)

Thus, early Christians had a subsequent response to the gospel as well as an immediate response. They spent the rest of their lives learning to obey what Jesus taught. This addressed all areas of their lives:



10. The Length of the Conversion Process
Often, it is impossible to determine exactly how much time elapsed between when people heard the gospel and when they responded. However, in a few instances the Scriptures tell us how long it took for someone to hear the gospel and respond to it:

The most rapid conversion was probably the Philippian jailer, the longest might well be the Thessalonians or Bereans. In the cases of Saul and Cornelius (where events span several days), it must be observed that the actual time of teaching and response was still a single day. (Of course, people like Saul may have been exposed to elements of the gospel for many years prior to their ultimate acceptance of it.)

Conversion Could Happen in a Day
While the length of time of conversions varied, the fact of conversion in a single day is prominent. It follows from this that the length of time for conversion was dependent upon the recipient, not something imposed inherently in the proclamation.

The reality of rapid conversion in the early church has several implications:

Ultimately, brief conversion testifies to the simplicity of Christianity: Jesus is the Son of God, crucified and raised from the dead according to the foretelling of God. Those who believe this may respond and have the gift of eternal life. Yet, the Scriptures allow that conversion need not always be brief, as there is evidence that many converts took some period of time to examine the Scriptures prior to responding.


11. The Age of Converts
Every Christian parent has a need to address the question of conversion of his or her children. Certainly, faithful parents want their children to share their faith and hope for salvation. Can anyone doubt that this has been true since the earliest days of the church?

Defining Terms
Let us define a "child" for the purpose of this study. A child is one who might be converted not as a result of his or her own faith or choice but through the decision and actions of his or her parents. Let us also consider the various relevant terms from the New Testament.

Household

Child

Relevant Texts from the New Testament
In examining the question of the baptism of children, we should examine if any conversion instances in Acts or the rest of the New Testament touch upon the question of child conversion.

From this examination, we can make several conclusions concerning the topic of child conversion:

For a further discussion on the topic of Infant Baptism, see the section of this study entitled What about Infant Baptism?

The Age of Spiritual Accountability
Implicitly, the age of spiritual accountability is defined as an age when a child is able to sin and believe in (or reject) Jesus as the Savior. This would likely vary with the individual and is not precisely defined by Scripture.

Interestingly, the only discussion of Jesus' life between infancy and adulthood is his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve (Luke 2:42ff). Here he shows traits of both maturity and immaturity. While he was aware of his identity and had made a conscious choice to be involved in spiritual matters, he is still subject to the authority of his parents. This text provides a suggestion that the age of twelve might be pivotal in considering when children become spiritually mature.

It is also interesting that the age of twelve roughly coincides with the onset of physical changes associated with puberty. This provides a further "natural" suggestion about the general age at which children may indeed begin to reach a point of spiritual accountability. Yet, these observations must be tempered with the realization that the Scriptures do not define this age explicitly, and each person is an individual that reaches spiritual accountability at his or her own rate.

What About Infant Baptism?
Recognizing the need for baptism for salvation and the higher infant/child mortality rate in ancient times, Christian parents wanted their children to be saved. Accordingly, it became a tradition to baptize the children or infants of Christians early in the history of the church. (Whatever opinion one has on this topic, all should appreciate the sincere desires to see the blessings of the gospel extend to one's children-- especially when their lives are genuinely at risk as they were in ancient times.)

Over time, three theological arguments have arisen that seek to justify the tradition of infant baptism.

Similarity with Circumcision
Some have compared Jewish circumcision to Christian baptism (ref. Colossians 2:12), with the idea that if circumcision was for children, then baptism must be for them too. However, there are some serious problems with this parallel.

Original Sin
Some have advanced the doctrine of "original sin" from Adam as a reason why children need to be baptized.

The Faith of the Church
Ludwig Ott (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, IL 1974, p. 358) cites Aquinas and the Schoolmen (S. th. III 68, 9 ad 2), referencing Augustine as teaching that the faith of the church takes the place of the faith of the individual in baptism.

Difficulties
The most significant problems with the practice of infant baptism are:

  1. There is no explicit Scriptural instruction or mandate concerning the baptism of infants.

  2. The initial arguments for infant baptism were attempts to justify a tradition that was already in place.

  3. In the New Testament, those who were baptized had accepted the gospel and believed prior to their baptism.

  4. The doctrine of original sin (the primary rationale for infant baptism) requires exceptions that contradict the explicit statements of Scripture.

Do Children Need to be Saved?
Neither Jesus nor the early church seems to have operated under the assumption that children needed to be "saved." To begin with, we might observe that Jesus himself was baptized as an adult, not as an infant.

Jesus taught that lostness and salvation are a matter of sin and faith. Young children are capable of neither sin nor faith and thus seem to be neither "saved" nor "lost." When Jesus said "the kingdom of heaven belongs to" children (Luke 18:16), he apparently states that children share in the kingdom of heaven by virtue of their youth and spiritual immaturity. (Certainly if "original sin" from Adam existed, Jesus would not be able to make such a statement concerning unbaptized infants.)

It is interesting that the Scriptures speak of many things that are required for salvation; baptism is just one of them. For example, there is the requirement to "do the will of the Father" (Matthew 7:21). If God expects children to be baptized, then does he not also expect them to "do the will of the Father?" Yet, the Scriptures contain no such discussion of staged responsibilities and obligations for those baptized as infants. This is further evidence that conversion was reserved for those beyond a certain age of accountability.



12. Evangelism in the Early Church
The early church had a particular approach to evangelism. While the overall approach seems to vary quite a bit in various circumstances, there are some common elements throughout. These are most easily divided into two main aspects-- God's work and man's work.

God's Work
Evangelism was seen as God's work. It was he who decided to work for the salvation of men, loving the world and sending his Son for their salvation (John 3:16). It was he who enabled faith (Acts 14:27) and drew people to him (John 6:44). He led Christians to those he wanted saved (Acts 8:26-27, 16:6-10) and kept them safe while they did the work (Acts 18:10).

Man's Work
The apostles saw themselves as God's fellow workers in this mission; they had their part and God had his part (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). According to this passage, man's part was "planting the seed" and "watering the seed." God's part was making it grow. Thus, the apostles planted the seed of the word (ref. Matthew 13:1-23) and "watered it." Yet, the planted seed grew up from God (see also Mark 4:26-29).

"Sowing the Seed"
The apostles and the early church were content to scatter the seed of message of the gospel and watch the fruit grow from it (Acts 8:4, Colossians 1:6). Since faith was critical to the whole conversion process (ref. Romans 1:5), the proclamation focused on building the faith of the hearers. Like Jesus, the early church presented the gospel not as a message of judgment but as a message of salvation (ref. John 3:17). The end result of this approach was that the word was most likely to be received as "good news" and then acted upon.

The apostles, like Jesus, were audience-sensitive and looked for the best ways to sow the seed of the word in various situations. They might preach to Jews in synagogues concerning how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. They might look for devout God-fearing people and present the gospel of God's inclusion to them, or to philsophers and show the exellencies of the gospel in their language and frame of reference. Peter spoke about "always being ready to give an answer" (1 Peter 3:15) for the reason for their hope, and they prayed to be able to have the right words at the right time (Colossians 4:2-6, Ephesians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 2:4, 2:13).

They didn't generally invite people to events as much as they took the message "on the road" (Paul's studies in the lecture hall of Tyrannus in Acts 19:9 are a notable exeption). They realized people could be converted in a day, and often introduced no delay in bringing the word of the good news to people.

"Watering the Seed"
The only mention we have in the New Testament of this "seed watering" is Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). In context, watering is a work of ministry subsequent to planting but prior to reaping. Thus, some people help others to have the word grow within them-- that is, to help that which has been already taught to have its ultimate effect of people believing in the message and being converted to Jesus. This watering seems to consist of love and care in the context of ministry (ref. Luke 13:8, 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8). Yet, there are instances of people becoming Christians in a single day. In these cases, it does not appear that "watering" took place at all.

Not Focusing on Themselves
The apostles attributed their mission of evangelism to Jesus; it was never about them but about his command to speak to the people concerning himself (e.g. Acts 10:42) and drawing people near to him. They were careful not to "preach themselves" (2 Corinthians 4:5). They rejoiced in seeing people won to the Lord, but did get caught up in taking credit for the work themselves or boasting compared to others (Luke 10:20, 1 Corinthians 3:7).


13. Proclamation and Response Today: Foundational Concepts
As we address the question of proclamation and response today, we should use the Biblical example to guide our approach. After all, the apostles were not only tasked with taking the gospel to all nations, they were personally equipped for this task by Jesus.

There are several general observations we should make about the Scriptural evidence. These should be incorporated into whatever approach might be used.

  1. The proclamation and response are simple enough to require but a day, yet substantial enough to last a lifetime

  2. The proclamation focuses on the person of Jesus and his Messiahship/Lordship

  3. The proclamation addresses questions as needed, but does not place these questions or more thorough understandings above the basic issue, which is the identity of Jesus Christ and faith in him

Religious Temptations to Be Avoided
From its earliest history, the church has wrestled with the question of how to present the gospel to the lost in an environment where false teachings exist. Along the way, it has sometimes burdened the gospel with well intentioned but regrettable appendages. Some of these things linger on to this day and merit specific discussion.

Allowing the Errors of Others to Corrupt the Process
Often, the process of proclamation and conversion is colored by the "errors of others." The idea is that because of this or that "bad thing," the process gets changed to prevent this or that "bad thing" from happening. Consider the words of the 3rd century Roman bishop Hippolytus:

But now, moved by His love to all His saints, we pass on to our most important theme, “The Tradition,” our teacher.  And we address the churches, so that they who have been well trained, may, by our instruction, hold fast the tradition which has continued up to now and, knowing it well, may be strengthened.  This is needful, because of the lapse or error which recently occurred through ignorance, and through ignorant men.  And the Holy Spirit will supply perfect grace to those who believe aright, that they may know how all things should be transmitted and kept by them who rule the church (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 1:1, emphasis added) (He goes on to discuss the conversion process for new converts in his time in Appendix A.)

The point is that the post-apostolic church often dealt with false teachings or practices by adding something in addition to the gospel. This is similar to the American legislative process today. For example, suppose certain laws exist to govern behavior in a particular area, and then someone takes an action that is questionable but not specifically illegal under the current law. After considering the behavior, the legislature may modify the law or pass a new law to make this new thing illegal. Thus, law is a reaction to wrongdoing.

But we must ask an important question: Did the apostles approach false teachings and practices in this way? Did they modify the gospel in light of false mutations of it?

Consider the first challenge to the doctrine of the apostolic church, which was the question of circumcising the Gentiles who had become Christians:

But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. [7] And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. [8] "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; [9] and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. [10] "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? [11] "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:5-11)

The apostles did not re-define the gospel to address this false teaching. However, they appealed to the core of the gospel and its implications to evaluate the false teaching. They answered the question of the day adequately, and simultaneously preserved the priority and integrity of the gospel.

Thus, the apostles evaluated false doctrines in light of the gospel and not according to an ever-expanding bank of situational resolutions and judgments. If any false teaching could cause the gospel to be altered, it would no longer be the gospel that was given in the beginning. Consider these references that place a priority on holding to the original gospel:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; [7] which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, [8] but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, [9] holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:7-9)
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13)
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)

If anyone is truly serious about proclaiming the gospel to a lost world today, the gospel must be liberated from all of the reactionary attachments that have glommed onto it over the years.

Artificially Induced Delays and Hurdles
From time to time, churches have introduced delays in the conversion process whereby candidates for conversion must "prove" themselves. It might seem noble to create a hedge against people making hasty or shallow decisions, and at first glance a few references from the Scriptures seem to support this idea.

Cost-Counting
Some point out that Jesus once told potential followers to "count the cost" (Luke 14:28) of following him, and therefore people should "count the cost" before becoming Christians today. Yet the reason for Jesus advocating this cost-counting is apparent when the context is considered. He is warning his hearers that his fate will not be that of a Davidic king who will expel the Romans (the dominant Messianic expectation of the day, ref. John 6:15, 12:34), but rejection by the leaders and crucifixion. Remember, Jesus spoke about this very thing on many occasions and still the apostles did not understand what he meant (ref. Mark 9:9-10, Luke 9:44-45). Thus, those who would physically follow him during his earthly ministry would end up faced with the cross themselves, just like him. So when Jesus speaks of cost-counting and cross-carrying, this is what is referring to.

Proponents of this idea of "cost-counting" generally fail to recognize this context for these remarks by Jesus. We might also observe that none of the apostles engaged in any "cost-counting" prior to following Jesus themselves; they did not really know what to expect when they started following him. While the apostles were committed to accompanying and following Jesus, they did not follow him to the cross when the time came but instead abandoned Jesus in the garden (Mark 14:50). And most importantly, the apostles did not make "cost-counting" part of the conversion process in the early church.

Proving Repentance
John the Baptist spoke of "producing fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8). John's observations have to do with valuations concerning the hearts of the recipients. John was expecting people to have hearts accepting of God's standards, not to go through some gauntlet of actions (e.g. sharing tunics or food, ref. Luke 3:11) prior to baptism. Thus, people confessed their sins-- failures according to God's standards-- at the time of their baptism (Matthew 3:6).

Similarly, Paul once stated that people must prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20). However, this text doesn't demand any "pre-baptismal" proving. Paul's point was that one's subsequent lifestyle reflected one's repentance. In New Testament times, the expressed desire to repent on the part of the convert was taken on good faith.

The apostles easily faced these same concerns as us today, and yet did not add any of this sort of thing to the proclamation/conversion process. The biblical conversions in a single day prove that there were no mandated delays or times of proving that were part of the conversion process in the early church. Thus, any process that deliberately introduces a delay between hearing the gospel and responding to it cannot be Scriptural.

Am I suggesting there should be no evaluation of the ramifications of the faith on the part of the potential convert? Not necessarily. But if the gospel is true and God is "for us" (Romans 8:31), the ramifications of that faith are somewhat irrelevant: one must act according to what one believes, regardless of the ramifications. Thus, what is important is not recognition of these possible ramifications (who can predict the future anyway?) but true faith in the Savior. Once that faith exists, conversion may take place.

In addition, experience has shown us that delays and arbitrary hurdles are of no value in preventing hasty or shallow decisions. It seems that they only postpone such decisions. On the other hand, such delays and hurdles play a very real role in obscuring the grace of God. Is His grace free or do we have to earn it?

As Paul told Agrippa in discussing how long Agrippa might take to become a Christian, "short time or long." The length of time may vary depending upon the individual, but the important thing is that people respond to the gospel. Yet, if we are to have a Scriptural conversion paradigm today, it must surely be compatible with the brief, one-day conversion examples seen in the early church.

Over-Emphasis on the "Properness" of Conversion
Another risk the church has always faced is the idea of finding the "perfect conversion," trying to address every potential stumbling block as a part of the process. This is a natural desire, and certainly sounds good and noble at first thought, especially in light of various false teachings.

However, the more complicated the conversion process is, the more likely it is that these complications will end up contradicting some Scriptural example. For example, if one insists upon church attendance prior to baptism, what does one do with the many conversions that took place in the book of Acts where there is no evidence of prior church attendance? Like most issues that get attached to the gospel, church attendance is an important issue from a faithfulness point of view, but it is not a Scriptural prerequisite for conversion.

Proclamations and responses in Bible times were sufficiently varied and show that the essence of conversion was quite simple. Conversion meant that people from various backgrounds went from not believing in Jesus to believing in Jesus, from not regarding him as Master to regarding him as Master, from darkness to light.

In addition, the New Testament is silent regarding any discussion of whether someone's conversion was proper. When one considers the Corinthians, Simon the Sorcerer, the Ephesians involved in magic, to name a few, and that none of these ever had their conversions questioned-- this cannot be ignored. No one in the Bible ever has his Christian conversion questioned. But when too much emphasis is placed upon the faith and behavior of the baptismal candidate, Christians may spend their lives wondering if they were converted properly or think that they somehow merited their conversion. There is no evidence that the early church had this particular problem; their faithfulness and baptism testified to their legitimate conversion to Christ.

Canonizing a Catechism
Suppose for a moment that we come up with "perfect conversion process." If we were to come up with such a thing, is there any doubt that there would be attempts made to canonize that process? "Canonizing" is the act or process of making something "official" or a standard. Canonizing a particular conversion process would lead to the church saying (implicitly if not explicitly), "If you want to lead others to Christ (or conversely, become a Christian), this is the only way to do it."

We need to observe that the apostles themselves did not have a single rigid approach for teaching potential converts. Each instance of proclamation and conversion had several common elements as well as unique aspects that related to the individual situation. This makes sense intuitively: there is one Lord and one set of core doctrines about Him that are central to the faith-- hence the common elements. Yet, people are individuals and are coming from different perspectives as they approach faith in Jesus. Thus, the Biblical approach was flexible enough to accommodate these different perspectives while still imparting and emphasizing the core of the gospel.

No matter what process we come up with today, we must always look for ways to get closer to the spirit and practice of the apostolic pattern.


14. A Scriptural Paradigm for Gospel Proclamation
On the outset, I shudder at the thought of creating "A Scriptural Paradigm for Gospel Proclamation." First, history and the foregoing discussion shows us how dangerous these things can be. Second, far greater minds than mine have wrestled with these issues. Who am I to add to these?

Yet, Christians today need to do "something" in teaching the gospel. But what? This is the question I seek to answer.

I am convinced that what is needed is not a new catechism or study series but a radical new framework that is both doctrinally solid and flexible enough to meet individual needs. The framework must provide the opportunity to give the hearer a true faith in the true Jesus and a chance to respond to him without obscuring the gospel with relatively unimportant items.

The Primary Proclamation and Response
This study has shown that the primary proclamation is the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. To cite but one Scriptural example:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, [2] by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, [5] and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

There are any number of ways that this might be proclaimed. This particular passage or others like it could be read or shared. Acts is particularly useful for this sort of teaching.

Those who believe in Jesus and want to live according to this fact may be baptized and become Christians. It can happen that very same day. It is that simple.

Answering Questions
Naturally, people may have some questions about Jesus, baptism, "faithful living" and the like. These are likely to be questions people are going to want answered before having a faith they can base their lives upon.

It is well known that many people believe in Jesus (more than 50% of all Americans), yet how many live faithfully? The objective of the evangelist (in the broadest sense of the term) here is to find out what the obstacles are to faithful living, and address them with solid Scriptural truth.

Ananias asked "what are you waiting for" of Saul in Acts 22:16, even as the Ethiopian asked "what prevents me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36). A question-based follow-up to the fundamental presentation of the gospel has considerable merit and definitely has Scriptural precedent. Everyone has different questions and different obstacles to coming to faith. A Scriptural paradigm for conversion must allow the questions to be answered.

On the one hand, these questions should be addressed seriously and from Scripture. On the other hand, these questions should be kept in perspective as few questions invalidate the fundamental message of the gospel-- the truth of Jesus being the Savior. It is reasonable for people to believe in him and commit themselves to following him and learning more about what that means along the way. (It is fallacious to think that any amount of pre-baptismal instruction does not leave people in this position anyway, to some degree.)

But, the questions will come along. Some likely ones are included below, with possible study topics that would address these questions.

Question

Study Topic

  • What does it mean to be a faithful Christian?

  • Study on the fundamentals of faithful Christian living

  • Is there a God?

  • What about other world religions? 

  • How do we know Jesus is the only way?

  • Comparative religion study

  • Evidences for Christianity (creation, archaeology, history, etc.)

  • What was Jesus like?

  • Details of his earthly ministry-- events, teachings, etc. 

  • Why baptism?

  • Study on baptism

  • What about religious issue "x?"

  • Study on religious issue "x"

  • Is the Bible reliable?

  • History and reliability of the Bible

  • Overview of the Bible

  • Principles of interpretation

  • Do I have to "go to church?" Why?

  • Study on the church and relationships with other Christians (one-another)

  • If there is a God, why do bad things happen? Why is there evil in the world?

  • Study on the nature of good and evil

  • What about religious leaders that you cannot trust and churches that are unfriendly?

  • Study on trustworthy leadership and how churches ought to be.

  • What about sin?

  • Sin study identifying the critical aspects of sin


Certainly this list could be much bigger, and there is plenty of room for discussion about how to approach answering some of these questions from the Scriptures. The point here is that subsequent studies to the basic proclamation should be focused on answering questions on the part of the candidate. This provides a Scriptural basis for helping the person overcome obstacles in his faith, resulting in him having a real and genuine faith. At this point, he is ready to commit his life in baptism to the Object of that faith with a clear conscience.

Where To Go From Here
Since the apostles were personally equipped by Jesus for proclaiming the gospel to mankind, we must be very careful not deviate from their approach in proclamation and conversion. This means that we must be flexible enough to allow for the meeting of individual needs, yet remain true to the core of the gospel. We cannot allow false teachings to modify the gospel, we cannot introduce delays that obscure the grace of God, and we should consider whether our concern with "perfect" conversion  has genuine Biblical merit or is simply a part of age-old denominational battles. And rather than canonize the latest process, we must realize that our understanding of this is limited and we always need to be open to a better understanding of the apostolic pattern.

The gospel itself is simple: Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. If someone believes in him as the Messiah, he then makes Jesus the Master (or Lord), is baptized and begins to live accordingly. If this is how people became Christians in the time of the apostles, then it is how people should become Christians today. Human additions are not necessary and are not easily defended. Proper Christian training towards maturity coupled with God and his word of grace (Acts 20:32) will take care of all the rest that is truly important.


Appendix A: Hippolytus on New Converts
New converts to the faith, who are to be admitted as hearers of the word, shall first be brought to the teachers before the people assemble.  And they shall be examined as to their reason for embracing the faith, and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word.  Inquiry shall then be made as the nature of their life; whether a man has a wife or is a slave.  If he is the slave of a believer and he has his master’s permission, then let him be received; but if his master does not give him a good character, let him be rejected.  If this master is a heathen, let the slave be taught to please his master, that the word be not blasphemed.  If a man has a wife or a woman a husband, let the man be instructed to content himself with his wife and the woman to content herself with her husband.  But is a man is unmarried, let him be instructed to abstain from impurity, either by lawfully marrying a wife or else by remaining as he is.  But if any man is possessed with demons, he shall not be admitted as a hearer until he is cleansed.

Inquiry shall likewise be made about the professions and trades of those who are brought to be admitted to the faith.  If a man is a pander, he must desist or be rejected.  If a man is a sculptor or painter, he must be charged not to make idols; if he does not desist he must be rejected.  If a man is an actor or a pantomimist, he must desist or be rejected.  A teacher of young children had best desist, but if he has no other occupation, he must continue.  A charioteer, likewise, who races  or frequents races, must desist or be rejected.  A gladiator or trainer of gladiators, or a huntsman, or anyone connected with these shows, or a public official in charge of gladiatorial exhibitions must desist or be rejected.  A heathen priest or anyone who tends idols must desist or be rejected.  A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected.  A military commander or civic magistrate that wears the purple must resign or be rejected.  If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God.  A harlot or licentious man or one who has castrated himself, or any other who does things not to be named, must be rejected, for they are defiled.  A magician must not even be brought for examination.  An enchanter, an astrologer, a diviner, a soothsayer, a user of magic verses, a juggler, a mountebank, an amulet maker must desist or be rejected.  A concubine, who is a slave and has reared her children and has been faithful to her master alone, may become a hearer; but if she has failed in these matters  she must be rejected.  If a man has a concubine, he must desist and marry legally; if he is unwilling, he must be rejected.

If now, we have omitted anything, the facts will instruct your mind; for we all have the Spirit of God.
Let the catechumens spend three years as hearers of the word, but if a man is zealous and perseveres well in the work, it is not the time but his character that is decisive.

When the teacher finishes his instruction, the catechumens shall pray by themselves, apart from the believers.  And women, whether believers or catechumens, shall stand for their prayers by themselves in a separate part of the church.

And when the catechumens finish their prayers, they must not give the kiss of peace, for their kiss is not yet pure.  Only believers shall salute one another, but men with men and women with women; a man shall not salute a woman.

And let the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering.
At the close of their prayer, when the instructor  lays his hand upon the catechumens, he shall pray and dismiss them; whoever gives the instruction is to do this, whether a cleric or a layman.

If a catechumen should be arrested for the name of the Lord, let him not hesitate about bearing his testimony; for if it should happen that they treat him shamefully and kill him, he will be justified, for he has been baptized in his own blood.

They who are to be set apart for baptism shall be chosen after their lives have been examined: whether they have lived soberly, whether they have honored the widows, whether they have visited the sick, whether they have been active in well-doing.  When their sponsors testify that they have done these things, then let them hear the gospel.  Then from the time that they are separated from the other catechumens, hands shall be laid upon them daily in exorcism, and, as the day of their baptism draws near, the bishop himself shall exorcise each one of them that he may be personally assured of their purity.  Then if there is any of them who is not good or pure, he shall put aside as not having heard the word in faith; for it is never possible for the alien to be concealed.

Then those who are set apart for baptism shall be instructed to bathe and free themselves from impurity  and wash themselves on Thursday.  If a woman is menstruous, she shall be set aside and baptized on some other day.

They who are to be baptized shall fast on Friday, and on Saturday, and the bishop shall assemble them and command them to kneel in prayer.  And, laying his hand upon them, he shall exorcise all evil spirits to flee away and never to return; when he has done this he shall breathe in their faces, seal their foreheads, ears and noses, and then raise them up.  They shall spend all that night  in a vigil, listening to reading and instruction.

Those who are to be baptized shall bring with them no other vessels than the one each will bring for the eucharist; for it is fitting that he who is counted worthy of baptism should bring his offering at that time (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 2:16-20)


Appendix B: Uses of the Phrase "Preach the Gospel"

Matthew 24:14; 26:13
Mark 13:10, 14:9
Luke 9:6, 20:1
Acts 8:25, 8:40, 16:10
Romans 1:9, 1:15, 15:20
1 Corinthians 1:17, 9:14, 9:16, 9:18, 15:1, 15:2;
2 Corinthians 2:12, 10:16, 11:4, 11:7
Galatians 1:8, 1:9, 1:11, 2:2, 2:7, 4:13
1 Thessalonians 2:9
Hebrews 4:2, 4:6
1 Peter 1:12, 4:6